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Update – 3 December 2010

Dear All,

This morning we were woken to the terrible news that devastating fires in Israel’s Carmel Mountain areas have resulted in the worst fires in Israel’s history. Mass evacuations are being carried out from hospitals, prisons and Kibbutzim in the area.

40 members of the Prison Service, who had been dispatched to evacuate some 500 prisoners from the Damon Prison, were killed en route as their bus engulfed in flames leaving no survivors on board. The head of Haifa Police, Ahuva Tomer has also been critically injured and is fighting for her life in hospital. This is been the largest peacetime mass casualty event involved security forces (see more) and the flames are still raging.

A Haifa firefighting spokesman declared, “we lost all control of the fire… There aren’t enough firefighting resources in Israel in order to put out the fire.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that this is a “disaster on an international scale” and has called on aid from other countries. “We do not have what it takes to put out the fire, but help is on the way. As a result of calls I have made, there are currently ten aircrafts on their way to Israel from Greece, France and Cyprus,” he stated. “This is a difficult our, and we will need to learn lessons for the future, but at this moment, our only thoughts are to save lives and protect the forces that are dealing with this catastrophe” (see more).

Israel is also expecting to receive assistance from Egypt, Spain, Croatia, Azerbaijan and Russia. Despite recent diplomatic tension with Turkey, they will also be sending two firefighting airplanes and were apparently one of the first governments to offer assistance (see more).

In the meantime, the mass evacuations continue with over 12,000 people already evacuated from areas such as Kibbutz Beit Oren, the Druze village of Ussafiya, Haifa University, Ein Hod, Nir Etzion, Tirat HaCarmel Hospital and more as the fires continue to spread. Kibbutz Beit Oren has been reportedly completely destroyed by the fires. Please keep checking Israel’s English news sites, such as Haaretz, Ynet and Jerusalem Post for updated information. The ZCV will also be updated a special page on our website which can be found here.

Magen David Adom reports that over 70 MDA Ambulance teams are at the scene supported by MDA helicopters. Over 200 MDA staff and volunteers are working in great danger to evacuate those critically injured. MDA Australia has set up an Emergency Appeal to assist in this critical situation. Please contact 9272 5633 for more information.

The JNF has also set up an Emergency APPEAL and is asking for emergency donations in order to provide vital firefighting equipment such as firetrucks and fireproof suits for rescue workers. Please contact 9272 5666.

Please also contact UIA on 9272 5533 for further information on how you can assist during this crucial time.

As we light our third Chanukah candle tonight, please keep the brave firefighters, volunteers and citizens of Israel’s North in your thoughts and prayers.