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Massive Israeli Fire Still Out Of Control, International Aid Arriving


The fire is the biggest in Israel's history
Firefighters are continuing to battle a devastating blaze in Israel that has killed more than 40 people, ravaged large swathes of forest, and forced some 15,000 from their homes.

Countries around the world have heeded Israel's appeal for help in fighting the forest fire close to the port of Haifa -- the largest blaze in the nation's history.

Israel's Arab neighbors, Jordan and Egypt, are among the countries that have sent firefighters and equipment to Israel. Turkey also put aside diplomatic differences and sent two firefighting planes.

Even the Palestinian Authority pitched in with firefighting units.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his gratitude to all those showing "solidarity with Israel."

The blaze, he said, was a tragedy for the small nation:

"We've lost over 40 people who were horribly burnt to death. We have people struggling for their lives in hospitals, we have missing persons," Netanyahu said. "The Carmel, one of the great nature reserves in the world, is being consumed by fire. We've had to evacuate some 15,000 people from communities near the fire."

Accusations Of Negligence

Despite the international aid, the fire on December 4 continued to burn out of control for a third day. Fire chief Shimon Romach said the flames might burn on for days.

The fire has exposed severe shortcomings in the country's ability to tackle such an emergency. Many in Israel criticize the government for spending billions of dollars a year on weapons while neglecting its fire service.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld admitted that negligence, not arson, was the cause of the fire.

More residents were evacuated from their homes on December 4, some of them by force.

Dozens of evacuees have been transferred to the Ofer military base. A woman who identified herself as Imi told Reuters that she was at work when firefighters ordered her to evacuate her home.

"I ran home because my youngest son was there, and we saw that the fire wasn't too far away, so we started listening to warnings, and the moment we received the message to evacuate, we packed a few basic things, and we left," Imi said.

Most of the blaze's victims were trainee prison officers, many of them young men and women, who were killed on December 2 when their bus was engulfed by flames. They were on their way to a prison to help evacuate 500 inmates.

with agency reports