(photo credit: Marc Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The IDF allocated all of its resources on Thursday to assist the Fire and Rescue Service in battling the blaze that had engulfed the Carmel Mountain region and claimed the lives of at least 40 people.
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IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi visited the Fire and Rescue Service’s command post in the North and said that the military will do all it could to help extinguish the fire.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his staff traveled Thursday evening to the area of the blaze, in order to be on top of the situation from the field.
Speaking earlier in Jerusalem, he said, "we have never known a tragedy of this scope."
In this hour, as the fire rages, "we are galvanizing all the nation's forces to stop the flames and to save the wounded. Our primary concern is to save lives of those who are trapped," Netanyahu said.
The fire, which broke out near the Druze village of Usfiya in the North on Thursday morning, took the lives of 40 prison guards and injured dozens more.
Netanyahu expressed his support for the search and rescue teams that were working in the area of the fire.
He spoke with heads of state Grecece, Cyprus, Italy and Russia and requested assistance, specifically with helicopters designed to fight fire from the air.
Greece agreed to send four such helicopters and Cyprus sent one.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman asked ambassadors in the United States, Europe and Jordan to seek assistance in overcoming the blaze.
Lieberman said, "We are talking about one of the worst disasters in the country's history. This is hard day for the entire nation."
The ministry also opened a situation room.
President Shimon Peres said, “Our heart today is in Haifa, with the fire-fighters who are bravely battling this, some of whom were injured, and with the residents. The fire has still not subsided."
"If there is something we can say it is that those involved in this difficult event are exhibiting true bravery that symbolizes the holiday of Hanukah. They exemplify personal and superior bravery and we are praying for a miracle. We pray for their safety. We pray for the cessation of the fire,” Peres said.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai instructed his office to
move firefighter forces from all over the country to the North to help
gain control of the fire.