Monday, December 06, 2010

The flames are out, now come the recovery and recrimination

From JPost, 5 December 2010, by YAAKOV LAPPIN:

Carmel inferno finally defeated after four days, though emergency teams still on standby; forest will take 40 years to recover; state comptroller finalizes "grave" report on years of Fire and Rescue Service neglect.

Millions of Israelis breathed a collective sigh of relief on Sunday after firefighters from here and abroad succeeded in overcoming the worst fire disaster the country has known, which killed 41 people, destroyed at least 50,000 dunams of Carmel forestland, damaged 250 homes, and caused over NIS 200 million in damage, according to initial estimates.

A number of small fires remained active in the Mount Carmel region, and the fleet of international fire planes that proved decisive in putting an end to the fires on Sunday, including a Boeing 747 supertanker leased by the government from a US company, remained on standby as night fell.

Weather forecasters said rain would likely help put out the remaining fires overnight.

“From our point of view, the danger has passed for all the places that were evacuated,” fire official Boaz Rakia said.

The relief quickly gave way to mourning, as 24 fire casualties – 22 Prisons Service staff and two policemen – were buried on Sunday.

As smoke rose from the smoldering forests of the Carmel, public pressure on the government and anger mounted over decades of neglect of the Fire and Rescue Service.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said he would soon publish a “grave” report on the shortcomings that led to the present state of the service. He was “only sorry” that warnings about the dangers that became evident in recent days had been disregarded by the authorities.

Magen David Adom officials said 33 people suffering from fire-related injuries were evacuated to hospitals during the four-day blaze.

Three of the injured – including Haifa police chief Asst.-Cmdr. Ahuva Tomer – were in critical condition, while three others were moderately hurt and the remainder lightly hurt.

Prof. Avi Pervolovski, a senior researcher at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Organization, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that it would take around 40 years for the Carmel forests to recover.

All of the estimated four to five million trees incinerated in the inferno will be replaced naturally, Pervolovski said, due to a fire-coping mechanism evolved by trees over millions of years, such as seeds that take flight during blazes and survive the flames, and underground branches that can also survive. But, he stressed, it will take decades for the forests to regain their natural heights.

“It will be a long time before the view we were used to in the Carmel will return,” Pervolovski said.

“Experts knew that this was the most likely area for a fire of this type,” he added.

At 5 p.m. on Sunday, police notified residents of the worst-hit area that they could return to their homes in Nir Etzion, Ein Hod, Ein Hud and Kibbutz Beit Oren.

Emergency officials said 250 homes suffered extensive damage, mostly in Ein Hod and Beit Oren. Live TV broadcasts carried images of shocked residents returning to Ein Hod and inspecting blackened homes.

The government has estimated that around 70 homes will have to be torn down and rebuilt, and allocated funds for mobile homes for displaced residents...
Post a Comment