Israel renews efforts to control massive bushfire
Israel renewed its efforts Saturday morning to bring its largest-ever bushfire, in the north of the country, under control, with firefighting aircraft preparing to take to the skies after first light at around 6 am (0400 GMT), dpa reported.
Hopes were especially being pinned on an aircraft sent from Russia, which can hold 42,000 litres of water. Other aircraft with large water-carrying capacities were also set to join in the firefighting efforts.
The blaze began on Thursday, shortly before noon local time (1000 GMT) on the heavily-forested Carmel hill, south-east of the Israeli city of Haifa, and spread rapidly and uncontrollably.
By Friday night, 36 hours after it started and aided by strong winds, unseasonably warm weather and land parched by drought, it had claimed 42 lives, destroyed more than 3,400 hectares of land, devoured over 4 million trees, and forced 17,000 people to flee their homes.
In the pre-dawn hours Saturday the flames threatened the villages of Nir Tzion and Ein Hod, both of which were evacuated. However, the fire was blocked from reaching the Haifa suburb of Deniya, which lies on the south-eastern outskirts of the city, even though at one stage it was only one kilometre from the quarter's outlying streets.
The inferno also reached a hotel, and a wildlife reserve.
But another fire, which began near the town of Ma'alot, about 40 kilometres north-east of the Carmel fire, was brought under control. City officials said they suspected arson.