12/06/2010, 00.00
ISRAEL
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Four-day Mount Carmel fire overpowered

International assistance is crucial to control fire because of local capacity proves insufficient. The death toll rises to 42 after Haifa police chief Ahuva Tomer dies. She was the first police chief in Israel’s history.

Haifa (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The four-day blaze that devastated Mount Carmel is now over. "The fire is under control,” fire chief Shimon Romah said. “There are no longer any major seats of the blaze. The task now is to make sure it doesn't break out again.” Under the circumstances, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu announced that international assistance is no longer needed.

A fleet of more than 30 planes and helicopters, many from European nations, arrived in Israel to help local fire fighters. A Boeing 747 super tanker leased by the government from a US company was crucial, dumping more than 76,000 litres of water.

An estimated four to five million trees were incinerated in an area of some 50,000 dunams (5,000 hectares), damaging 250 homes.

Yesterday, police notified residents in the worst hit area that they could return to their homes. Almost all the roads have been reopened.

Meanwhile the death toll has reached 42, the latest victim being Haifa police chief Ahuva Tomer. In 1997, Tomer became the first woman commander of an Israel police station. Ten years later, she became the first female district-level operations commander in the Israel Police Force. Fast-forward by less three years and Tomer made history again when she was appointed to lead the massive Haifa Station, thus becoming the first woman to command a major police station, with over 500 police under her direct command.

Although al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the blaze, Israeli authorities believe the fire was caused by negligence. Two brothers are being held on suspicion of not putting out a fire completely at the end of an outing.  

In view of the barrage of criticism for the authorities’ unpreparedness, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that the government would present a plan next week to purchase anti-fire planes.

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