Disaster in Betar Illit
'We didn't hear shouts from the house; it was completely quiet'

Children who perished in Beitar Illit fire to be buried this morning: 'We tore bars with our hands and entered apartment.'

Mordechai Sones,

Betar fire
Betar fire
Flash 90

United Hatzalah volunteers who arrived last night at the Beitar Illit disaster scene told of the fire that killed two siblings, Zvi Ginsburg, 2, and Efrat, 4.

"We smelled thick smoke, opened the door, and saw the smoke was coming from next door," said Itzik Asher, who lives in the next apartment.

The volunteers evacuated the trapped people via balconies of nearby apartments because the staircase was full of smoke. "We managed to rescue about 10 children," volunteer Yossi Yonah told News 2. "I tried with all my might to enter the Ginsburg home where the fire broke out, but it was no longer possible to enter. We didn't hear shouts from the house. There was absolute silence there."

Firefighters arriving on scene managed to break into the apartment after the fire had already consumed it. They found the two children there and MDA forces were forced to declare their death.

Meir, a resident of the city who was one of the first to arrive on scene, told News 2: "There was no possibility to enter; everything was black, black smoke, so we just climbed up because we saw children, all the windows had children looking out. We pulled with our hands - there were no firefighters here - we tore at the bars with our bare hands and entered the apartment."

The two children who perished in the disaster will be buried this morning in a small family service. "Woe to us, we are crushed," the Betar Illit municipality said in a statement. "Together with all city residents we are shaken, grieved, and shocked at the tragic passing of the two little children - Efrat (4) and Zvi (2) Ginsburg, who perished in the fire tonight in their home in Beitar Illit. 'May death be swallowed forever, and may the L-rd erase tears from every face'."

Firefighter Operations Officer Brigadier Nissim Twito rejected claims that fire trucks tarried before arriving on scene: "Time at hard moments seems more like an eternity than it really is. The system took exactly 5 minutes to arrive from the moment of the call - a good time by any standard," he told Army Radio.

Initial investigation reveals the fire probably was caused by a short circuit. All seven victims evacuated yesterday to Shaare Zedek Medical Center were released to their homes.