Giant US plane joins firefighting effort

The Evergreen Supertanker carries 95,000 liters of fire fighting agent, and can operate at night.

This morning, 30 firefighter planes and three helicopters renewed the battle with the fire raging on the Carmel range. The fire has destroyed more than 40,000 dunams (10,000 acres) and some 4 million trees. The firefighting service will continue operations this morning to assist the efforts from the air, while bulldozers create firebreaks in an attempt to stop the fire from spreading.

Firefighters told Galei Tzahal (Army Radio) that the situation is the best it has been since the fire broke out on Thursday. Less smoke is visible in the area than in the past few days.

Last night, the world's largest firefighting plane, the Evergreen Supertanker, landed at Ben Gurion Airport from the US. It will join the firefighting efforts this morning.

The plane, an adapted Boeing 747, is the only firefighting aircraft in the world capable of operating at night. It can carry 95,000 liters of fire fighting agent, 16 times the capacity of an average fire engine.

Three Palestinian fire engines and their crews will also come to Israel this morning.

The damage from the fire is so far estimated at NIS 3-4 billion. State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss intends shortly to present to the Knesset State Control Committee a follow-up report on the state of Israel's firefighting services and the performance of government ministries on the matter. On the basis of the report, a decision will be made whether to set up a Commission of Inquiry.

Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai has rejected criticism directed at him and says he will not resign. Firefighting services are the responsibility of local authorities, which in turn are the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior.

"I have done a great deal for the firefighting service," Yishai told Channel 2. "I have already asked the cabinet to set up an inquiry to investigate what has happened here in the past several years and why cuts were made to the firefighting service. The chain of events must be investigated. I warned that Israel had one of the worst firefighting services in the world. After 8-10 years without a budget, I was the first who succeeded in obtaining a budget of NIS 100 million, and I stressed that this too was inadequate. It is unfortunate that, on a day like this, instead of concerning ourselves with people's funerals, we are busying ourselves with this. At present, we have to concentrate on extinguishing the fire."

Yesterday, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned that the aid Turkey sent to help fight the fire on the Carmel should not be taken as a sign that relations between Turkey and Israel had improved. "You should not confuse this aid with other problems we have with Israel," Erdoğan said. "Ties between us will not improve until we receive an official apology from Israel." Erdoğan was referring to the incident in which Israeli forces killed nine Turkish militants on a ship attempting to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza in May this year. Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier said that he hoped the Turkish aid was a sign of improving relations.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on December 5, 2010

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2010

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