Firefighters are battling to control what experts have described as the worst forest fire in Israeli history as a devastating inferno rages through the country’s Carmel mountains region for a second day.
The fire, which has already destroyed an estimated 5,000 acres of forest and bush land in northern Israel, saw its first casualties yesterday afternoon when a bus sent to help evacuate a nearby prison caught fire, killing up to 40 Israeli prison guards.
Some 10,000 people have been evacuated from their homes, while the blaze has caused severe damage to kibbutzim in the area. The University of Haifa campus has been evacuated, as have all guests and staff from the Carmel Forest Spa, the largest in Israel.
A spokesman said: “There has been no damage yet but the fire is very close to the resort. We are waiting to see what will happen in the next few hours.”
The blaze comes during what has been an unusually dry winter in Israel.
Israel's President Shimon Peres said: "Our heart today is in Haifa."
He added: "If there is something we can say it is that those involved in this difficult event are exhibiting true bravery that symbolises the holiday of Chanukah.
"They exemplify personal and superior bravery and we are praying for a miracle.
"We pray for their safety. We pray for the cessation of the fire."