Foreign police officer: 80% of Carmel fire contained

Nir Etzion, Ein Hod and Ein Chud residents may return to their homes; Aharonovitch to PM: "We are approaching the end, there is almost full control over fires;" only small fires remain in the area.

December 5, 2010 15:30
3 minute read.
A firefighter near Yemin Orde, Sunday

Firefighter carmel 311 ap. (photo credit: Associated Press)

A police officer from Cyprus working to fight the fire in the Carmel told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday afternoon that 80% of the blaze has been contained as police announced that residents of Nir Etzion, Ein Hod and Ein Chud can return to their homes.

Public Security Minister Aharonovitch also updated Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Sunday afternoon saying, "we are approaching the end; there is almost full control over the fires."

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In addition, the Israel Police helicopter observation unit reported earlier on Sunday that there were no longer any large fires in the Carmel region. The report said that only small fires remained scattered throughout the area, all of which were being tackled by firefighters. Three helicopters from Switzerland also landed in the area on Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday morning, Fire Chief Shimon Romah told Army Radio that the Carmel Mountain Range blaze was under better control. While saying that this was the best state the fire-fighting teams had found themselves in since the blaze began on Thursday, he added that only cautious optimism should be exercised as fires still burned.

The road between Beit Oren to Prison 6 remained closed to civilian traffic. Its use was reserved for emergency vehicles only. All other routes were reopened. Police forces were scanning Yemin Orde in order to determine if it could be reopened. Nir Etzion and Beit Oren remained closed to residents.

In a statement on Sunday morning, Firefighters Spokesperson Boaz Rakia, said that although there was a hope that the fires would be under control by Sunday night, it would still be a number of days before all the fires were put out. The Carmel blaze has scorched over 12,000 acres (50,000 dunams), killed 41 people and injured scores.

More than thirty fire-fighting aircraft resumed operations early on Sunday morning, and prepared to drop fire-fighting materials and water on the four remaining areas of fire in Israel's North.  Among the aircraft was the Evergreen Supertanker aircraft that landed in Israel overnight.

Several key developments took place over the weekend. All 41 casualties of the fire were identified by forensic officers at the L. Greenberg Institute for Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir, and a series of funerals were held. More will take place on Sunday.

The majority of the dead were Israel Prisons Service staff who were burned alive in their bus near Beit Oren on Thursday.

The dead also included two policemen who had tried to assist the bus passengers, named as Ch.-Supt. Yitzhak Melina, 46, and the Northern District’s Operations Branch manager Dep.-Cmdr. Lior Boker, 57. He was posthumously promoted to Asst.- Cmdr by Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen.

The body of Elad Riven, 16, of Haifa, who was a volunteer in the Fire Service and had rushed to assist at the scene of the tragedy, was also identified. Haifa police chief Dep.- Cmdr. Ahuva Tomer remained in critical condition at the Rambam Medical Center.

Police arrested two brothers from Usfiya, aged 14 and 16, suspected of having started the blaze by failing to douse a bonfire around which they had been playing and smoking on Thursday morning. The pair are suspected of negligence rather than deliberate arson. Arson is suspected at several other points where fires have erupted since the initial blaze took hold.

A fleet of international assistance aircraft from Russia, Greece, France, Bulgaria, Britain, Italy and Turkey flew sortie after sortie over the flames, dropping large quantities of water and fire retardants, before returning for more runs. On the ground, besieged firefighters managed to beat the fires back from Nir Etzion, Ein Hod, Haifa’s Denya neighborhood, and the Tirat Hacarmel-Atlit area.

Benjamin Hartman and Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.

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