Visitors barred from Carmel forest due to dangerous post-fire conditions
Agriculture Ministry says closure is necessary for rehabilitation of the forest and public safety while essential pruning and other work is underway.
The Agriculture Ministry on Thursday ordered the Carmel Forest closed to visitors. There is serious concern trees affected by soil erosion could fall. The order will remain in effect until December 26.
The order was signed by Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog, who has taken over the powers of Agricultural Minister Shalom Simhon in the matter of forests to prevent a conflict of interest as Simhon is now seeking the office of chairman of the Jewish National Fund.
The ministry said the closure is necessary for rehabilitation of the forest and public safety while essential pruning and other work is underway. The ministry also warned that expected weekend rainstorms could lead to flooding in areas where burned trees no longer anchor the soil in extensive open spaces. The layer of ash deposited from the fire is impervious to water, the ministry said, and the risk of flooding increases as water cannot seep into the ground in those areas.
Between 100 and 200 millimeters of rain are expected to fall over the next few days.
The head of the Jewish National Fund's northern district, Dr. Omri Boneh, said the flood danger particularly threatens the area at the foot of the Carmel. "We hope the rain will fall over the widest possible area. We recall one cloudburst in that area, when some 300 mm of rain fell in the Me'arot Stream, flooding Moshav Tzrufa," Boneh said.
The head of the Carmel Drainage Authority, Moshe Yizraeli, ordered all towns and communities in its jurisdiction to prepare for the rain by cleaning away any obstructions in drainage channels. The Carmel Regional Council said it has been working over the past two days to clean out the channels.