Added by Annika L. Krugel on December 6, 2010
A forest fire, the worst in Israel’s history, has killed at least 36 prison guards, destroyed homes and devastated one of the few forested areas in the country.
The fire was able to spread quickly due to the combination of unseasonable hot and dry weather; ripping through the Carmel forest in Galilee to the coastal city of Haifa.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called it “… a disaster of unprecedented proportions.”
The 36 guards were killed on their way to rescue inmates in a nearby prison as the bus they travelled in was blocked by a fallen tree.
Israel has in a rare move appealed for international assistance, said to be a significant measure of the severity of the disaster, and Greece, Spain and Cyprus has responded by sending firefighting helicopters. Aid is also expected from Britain, Russia, Romania, Jordan, Egypt, Bulgaria and Azerbaijan.
Turkey, despite months of tensions following a May 31 attack on a Turkish flotilla, has also offered assistance.
The cause of the fire is still under speculation; it is thought to have been an accident or possibly a criminal act, but it has been ruled out that it was an attack by a Palestinian group.