Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appealed for international help to fight a massive forest fire out of control in the northern Israeli city of Haifa.
Describing the blaze as an “unprecedented disaster,” Netanyahu said on Friday that Israel cannot battle the raging fire alone.
At least 41 people have been killed and many others injured in what is believed to be Israel’s biggest forest fire, which broke out about midday (1000 GMT) on Thursday.
Following Netanyahu’s request for foreign assistance, firefighting planes from Britain, Bulgaria, Jordan and Greece arrived on the scene to help tackle the Carmel fire which has swept across more than 10,000 acres of land in the past 24 hours.
Egypt, France, Jordan, Romania, Spain, Russia and Turkey have also pledged to help. According to Israeli media reports, Russia is sending an Antonov — the biggest firefighting plane in the world — with huge firefighting capacity to Israel.
About 15,000 residents, including 600 prisoners, have been evacuated and Israeli officials say they hope the fire could be contained by Saturday.
Tel Aviv was heavily criticized for lack of readiness to cope with the disaster. Israel’s fire service has no firefighting planes.
“The issue of firefighting planes was discussed a number of times… It’s been spoken about but here nothing moves until a disaster occurs,” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said.
“There is no doubt that we should have bought large planes without waiting for this alarm to go off… the damage done is now far more than the price of the most expensive plane in the world, and when referring to human life then of course the issue of cost is irrelevant,” he added.