Israeli’s worst-ever fire linked to global warming: Expert

Thursday, December 9, 2010

HAIFA - The wildfire that devastated large swathes of land in northern Israel and killed 42 people, was a consequence of a climate change, a forestry expert said Thursday.

“This fire had a strength we’ve never seen before. We have to link it to global warming,” Yisrael Tauber, a forest manager for the Israeli Jewish National Fund land conservation organization said.

Speaking during a visit to affected area on the Carmel hill, south of the city of Haifa, Tauber pointed out that the ground was “exceptionally dry” after a long, hot summer and that there had been virtually no winter rain.

“Together with an easterly wind, this created a deadly combination and set the conditions for a catastrophe,” he said.

The fire, Israel’s worst-ever, broke out last Thursday and raged for four days, destroying around 80 sq. km. of land and consuming millions of trees. Around 17,000 people were forced to flee their homes.

The blaze was only fully extinguished Monday, following a massive international firefighting effort.

Israel’s State Comptroller has found the country’s firefighting services have suffered years of neglect that has left it with outdated equipment and staff shortages.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said the interior ministry, under whose aegis the services fall, the finance ministry, and the defence ministry bore the bulk of the responsibility for the poor state of affairs.

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