5 Dec 2010

Israeli forest fire spreading

7:33 am on 5 December 2010

A forest fire is spreading in northern Israel, despite the efforts of all available firefighters and a growing number of foreign crews.

The fire service said on Saturday morning that emergency workers were "still far from attaining control over the fire".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an appeal for more international help on Friday evening.

At least 41 people have died in what is thought to be Israel's largest blaze.

As the fire entered its third day on Saturday, every available firemen in the country was helping to battle the flames in the Carmel Mountain region near the city of Haifa.

Specially equipped firefighting aircraft and crews from Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Jordan, Egypt and the UK are also assisting.

Britain sent a team of experts, fire-fighting supplies and pledged to make additional aircraft available. The Palestinian Authority also sent firefighting units.

Mr Netanyahu called leaders of Germany, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands and Belgium on Friday evening to ask for more assistance, Israeli media reported.

Most of those killed in the blaze were prison guards on a bus sent to help evacuate a prison after the fire started on Thursday. The bus was trapped in the inferno by a fallen tree in the Carmel mountains.

The flames have so far burnt more than 3240 hectares of what forest and brush land.

Mr Netanyahu described the blaze as an "unprecedented disaster".

The BBC reports Israel is in its driest November in 60 years.