fire - Reuters - December 6 2010
Fighting the Carmel fire yesterday. The new planes and firefighting authority will require an additional NIS 2 billion. Photo by Reuters
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The fire on the Carmel is dying down, and only now is the true extent of the disaster becoming clear. The total cost of the damage the blaze did, in loss of life and property, is now estimated at NIS 2 billion, according to senior government officials. This expense will be shared by private insurance companies and the state. The cabinet has already announced that the state will compensate people without insurance or with only partial coverage.

But this NIS 2-billion bill does not include the cost of the new squadron of firefighting planes that the air force plans to buy, or of creating a new national firefighting authority. Those together will cost taxpayers at least another NIS 2 billion.

The cabinet announced it would provide NIS 140 million in emergency aid. The cabinet met in an emergency session yesterday in the town of Tirat Carmel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "We must speed up the payment of the compensation. I don't want delays or bureaucracy."

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss is expected to investigate the events leading to the fire, and its aftermath, in addition to finishing a special report on the country's firefighting services, which may be released this week.

The Hof Hacarmel regional council estimated yesterday that the direct damages caused to its residents was some NIS 120 million. The cost of rehabilitating the forests on the Carmel is in the NIS 200 million range, based on a cost of NIS 4,000 per dunam (quarter-acre ). The fire destroyed an area of 50,000 dunams.

Direct damages are defined as those caused to property such as homes; forests; vehicles; roads; bridges; animals; sewage, water and electricity infrastructures; and other property. Indirect damage includes lost work days, loss of income, alternative housing costs, etc. The costs also include rebuilding and re-equipping the existing firefighting system.

Netanyahu said the state will buy, or lease, its first firefighting plane soon. The fire is not considered an act of war or terror, and it is therefore not clear how the state will go about compensating victims.