'Carmel Fire report reveals series of failures'

State Comptroller Lindenstrauss sends draft of report to bodies involved in fire; Yishai rejects any personal criticism of his role in blaze.

August 14, 2011 13:17
2 minute read.
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss

311_Micha Lindenstrauss. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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A draft of the State Comptroller's extensive report into the Carmel Fire was sent on Sunday to the Prime Minister, the police, the Prison Service and to relevant ministers, including the Interior Minister.

A team of 30 auditors have worked around the clock on the report, which at 450 pages is the largest of its scope produced in recent years, the State Comptroller's office said in a statement on Sunday.

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State Comptroller: Carmel Fire report 'very severe'
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"That is because of the size of the disaster and its serious consequences," the statement read. "The State Comptroller's reports, including the report on the Second Lebanon War, have warned of the dangers to the state and its citizens of failures in extinguishing fires."

The State Comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, has warned on several occasions within the past few weeks that his report is expected to reveal serious negligence on the part of several of the organizations and bodies investigated. 

Foury-four people died in the fire last December, the deadliest in Israel's history. Among the victims were 37 prison service cadets and their commanding officers, who died when their bus was engulfed by flames.

The fire also caused widespread damage to land and property, totaling million of shekels. An estimated 1.5 million trees were destroyed in the fire.

According to the State Comptroller's office, the draft report focuses on six main areas: events on the first day of the fire from the morning to the time the bus was engulfed in flames; the firefighting services; forest and bush fire prevention; security in events of emergency; the preparedness of local authorities and how they functioned during the fire; and the responsibility of ministers for failures and oversights, including in past governments.

The report exposes failures and serious oversights that require immediate action in all these six areas, the statement said.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai, whose office was in charge of firefighting services at the time of the tragedy, sharply rejected the idea that the report would criticize him personally.

"Was I the only person who was working? What did people expect? That I should have taken a fire engine and driven it into the area? That I should have replaced the commanders?" said Yishai during a cabinet meeting on Sunday. "The Interior Minister was the only one who carried out tasks at the smallest resolution - calling companies who provided equipment, purchasing companies - that's me? The Interior Minister is not a purchasing manager, he's not a prophet or a prophet's son, but people's lives were before my eyes."

According to the State Comptroller's office, all audited bodies are expected to respond to the parts of the report that deal with their particular role in the fire within thirty days.

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