Northern Israel is going through a deadly forest fire growing out of control despite the efforts of all available Israeli firefighters and an important number of foreign crews. (map, from bbcimg.co.uk)
On Saturday morning the forest fire entered its third day, and fire service told Israeli media that emergency workers were “still far from attaining control over the fire”.
On Friday evening prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for more international help.
Every available firemen in the country was helping to battle the flames in the Carmel Mountain region near the city of Haifa on Saturday.
A spokesman for the fire service told Israel Radio that the crews were attempting to push it “from green areas to areas that were already burnt”.
Specially equipped firefighting aircraft and crews from Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Jordan, Egypt and the UK are also assisting.
The US sent a team of experts, fire-fighting supplies and pledged to make additional aircraft available and the Palestinian Authority also sent firefighting units.
What is described as the country’s largest blaze has killed at least 41 people. Most of them were prison guards travelling on a bus sent to help evacuate Damon prison, following the start of the fire on Thursday. But a fallen tree trapped the bus in the fire in the Carmel mountains.
Early on Saturday, a 16-year-old volunteer, who had helped to fight the blaze, was found dead, Israel Radio reported.
More than 17,000 people, including prison inmates, have been evacuated from the area.
So far the flames have burnt more than 8,000 acres, mainly of forest and brush land.
While Israeli media have criticised the government’s lack of readiness, Netanyahu said the blaze was an “unprecedented disaster”.
The fire, which is believed to have started in an illegal landfill site, broke out about midday (1000 GMT) on Thursday.
Investigators said it is still unclear whether it was accidental or deliberate.
Two arson suspects were arrested on Friday, but they were not linked to the main fire, a police spokesman told the Jerusalem Post.
However this police spokesman added that there had been a number of arson attacks in the region.
Israel is going through a period of drought with its driest November in 60 years.