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Daily Israel Report

Help Arrives from Europe, Turkey, U.S.; Planes Take to the Skies

Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, Britain, and Cyprus send firefighting aircraft to Israel. Jordan, Russia, U.S. to send help as well.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 12/3/2010, 12:14 PM / Last Update: 12/3/2010, 12:21 PM

Help arrived on Friday morning for Israeli firefighters trying to put out a massive blaze in the north. Their efforts had been hampered by the lack of firefighting planes; now several planes have arrived and have begun assisting the in firefighting effort.

The first planes to arrive came from Bulgaria, which sent 100 firefighters as well, and from Greece, a country which has traditionally had little to do with Israel but which has recently established warmer ties and has recent experience with large fires.

Help also arrived from Turkey, despite increasingly hostile relations between Turkey and Israel. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu thanked Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who sent two planes.

Later in the morning helicopters came from Britain and Cyprus, and firefighting trucks arrived from Jordan. Israeli firefighting commanders expressed hope that with the foreign assistance, the fire will be put out by Friday afternoon.

The planes are already in action, and have drawn seawater to extinguish the flames. A massive Russian firefighting plane is expected to arrive in the afternoon.

Netanyahu said Israel had received offers of help from many other countries as well, among them Egypt, Azerbaijan, Spain, Croatia, and France.

United States President Barack Obama offered his condolences Thursday to the families of those killed in the fire, and said the U.S. would assist Israel in responding to the blaze. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg initiated an aid operation already, sending a plane carrying firefighting chemicals, the supplies of which are critically low in Israel.

Wind and unusually dry weather led to conditions in which the fire spread rapidly, moving up to one mile in five minutes. Witnesses reported seeing flames up to 50 meters (more than 150 feet) tall.

At least 40 people were killed in the blaze, most of them Prison Services workers trapped in a burning bus after evacuating a jail.