39 people saved from burning building

Crane used to evacuate upper floors of 13-storey Petah Tikva apartment building.

fire truck 298 (photo credit: )
fire truck 298
(photo credit: )
A fire erupted in an eight-storey building on one of the main roads in Petah Tikva on Thursday afternoon, leaving many trapped by the flames. Fifty-one people were taken to hospital from smoke inhalation, with four of them in moderate to serious condition and the rest lightly injured. Six policemen who arrived first at the scene were lightly wounded after they rushed into the building to rescue those who were cut off. Fire service spokesman Moshe Mosko said investigators didn't know what the cause of the fire was, but added that it may have been a short circuit in an air conditioner. "We are checking everything. At the moment, I don't have a (definite) answer," he said. Almost 100 firemen in 20 fire engines from Petah Tikva and the rest of the central region rushed to deal with the rapidly growing blaze. "The fire spread very quickly. It's an old building, at least 30-35 years old," Mosko explained, adding that the plastic material used on the balconies where residents hung their washing contributed to the conflagration. Nevertheless, the fire services put the flames out within about two and a half hours and managed to prevent them engulfing the whole building. "There is no doubt that the rapid response of the fire services saved lives," said Mosko. Rescue services used cranes to help extricate those trapped inside, while police officers broke down doors in order to provide another escape route, said Sharabi. The victims were evacuated by 10 regular Magen David Adom ambulances and five mobile intensive care units to the Rabin Medical Center's Beilinson and Hasharon Campuses in Petah Tikvah, and the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. A mother, her newborn baby and a woman in the late stages of pregnancy were among those rescued from the building, whose seventh floor was the focus of the fire. The rescue was complicated by rain that began to fall during the evacuation. Those residents whose apartments became uninhabitable were due to spend the night at hotels paid for by the local municipality. Police and security guards planned on guarding the building to prevent looting.