Israel Fire Update: Uncontrolled, 42 Dead, 17,000 Evacuated


(JTA) — The fire raging in northern Israel was still out of control as the sun set on Friday, with 42 people reported dead.

At least 17,000 Israelis were evacuated from the area of the blaze, which spread closer to Haifa on Friday. The University of Haifa, which was evacuated on Thursday, has become a staging ground for emergency personnel. Most of those killed by the fire were prison guard cadets aboard a bus that was trapped Thursday by burning trees felled by the flames. The guards were enroute to a nearby prison to carry out an inmate evacuation.

Although aid has poured in from countries as close as Turkey, Cyprus and Greece and as far as the United States and Russia, firefighters had yet to bring the blaze under control as of late Friday. Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen told reporters that incidents of arson had occurred at several locations on Friday.

Officials have yet to confirm the origin of the blaze, which began Thursday, but there are suspicions that it began at an illegal dumping ground in the Carmel area.

Since the blaze began, Israelis have been gripped by images of flames consuming forested areas in the mountains east of Haifa, residents watching their homes burn and footage of the scorched shell of the bus in which the prison guards were killed.