cabinet - Ofer Vaknin - December 6 2010
Netanyahu (center) met with other government ministers in Tirat Carmel yesterday to discuss continued response to the fire. Photo by Ofer Vaknin
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A short time after firefighters said they had control of the Carmel fire yesterday, Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser announced the formation of an interministerial committee to help the victims of the fire, rehabilitate the Carmel Forest and ascertain the damage caused by the blaze.

The committee will be headed by Eyal Gabai, the director general of the Prime Minister's Office, and will include four subcommittees.

One of these is aimed at "bringing life back to normal" in the area affected by the fire, Hauser said. That will involve assisting the local authorities, especially in the four towns most seriously damaged in the fire: Ein Hod, Nir Etzion, Beit Oren and Yemin Orde. At least 12,000 have been evacuated from their homes.

Initial assessments indicate that 250 homes were damaged in the fire, of which 70 are estimated to have been damaged so extensively that they may need to be rebuilt.

The total damage to homes and property is estimated at between NIS 120 million and NIS 150 million, and the damage to the forest and intercity roads is estimated to come to an additional NIS 120 million.

"Wherever it's impossible to restore the area within a short time, portable structures will be provided," Hauser said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered that any mobile homes brought in be evacuated within 60 days - "so we don't find ourselves in a situation in which, within a few months or years, they become a kind of permanent structure," Hauser added.

A second subcommittee, headed by Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog, will be helping the residents and providing additional social services.

A third subcommittee will focus on rehabilitating Carmel Forest and the estimated 5 million trees, on 50,000 dunams (12,500 acres ) of land, that burned down over the last few days. The panel has 21 days to estimate damages and suggest which measures to take.

The final subcommittee will assess the insurance coverage for the damaged property.