Goodness Gracious! Israelis Battle Weather-related Blazes

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Israel's airports experienced delays and closures yesterday due to extreme weather conditions, as a thick haze blanketed the entire country from early morning to evening with temperatures in the mid-30s. Tel Aviv's Sde Dov Airport closed to arrivals, while officials at Ben-Gurion International Airport warned of low visibility that could affect take-off and landing schedules.

Extreme heat and strong winds spread across the country, causing multiple blazes and toppling trees and power lines. A residential Petah Tikva building went up in flames as a result of fallen power lines. Three apartments were severely damaged, but no injuries were reported. There were power outages and some damage in Sderot as a tree fell on power lines, and in Kiryat Gat fallen power lines closed a road to traffic.

Additional fires were reported in Kibbutz Nahal Oz in the south and Elad near Petah Tikva, and power outages were reported in central Israel around Tel Aviv and Bat Yam. A fire erupted in Kfar Chabad after a tree fell on power lines, causing a short circuit and setting three houses ablaze.

At Kibbutz Gesher Haziv in the western Galilee strong winds spread the fire from a kibbutz field to disused asbestos chicken coops, and also threatened a nearby gas station before fire crews quelled the blaze. Firefighter Shlomo Fadida said Nahariya Police are examining whether the fire could have been the result of arson.

In Acre a fire broke out close to the city's train station, but fire crews were able to contain the flames without the blaze spreading to buildings or causing injuries.

Several hospitals reported an influx of patients to emergency rooms yesterday amid the inclement weather. Staff at Petah Tikva's Beilinson Hospital said six individuals were admitted for emergency procedures with weather-related ailments - two of them with particles in their eyes, two with breathing problems and two others with asthma and nosebleeds. Most of the patients were released from hospital after treatment.

Ten people were admitted to Hadera's Hillel Yaffeh Medical Center complaining of difficulty breathing. Dr. Jalal Ashkar, head of the emergency unit, said a pregnant woman in her 20s from Jisr al-Zarqa was admitted to intensive care after suffering severe respiratory difficulties.

Dog day afternoon

The extreme weather also affected Israel's animal population. Staff at the Ramat Gan Safari said water sources at the zoological park were cleaned and filled so animals making their home in the park - including tigers, penguins, bears and elephants - could refresh themselves during the hot afternoon.

"Like everyone else, animals find such days unpleasant," said a safari staff member. "But they don't notice it as much, because they're less spoiled than us - there also wasn't much sun today, so we didn't see them looking for shade. There are sometimes days like this in nature, but they deal with them."

Noah Kosharek and Zafrir Rinat contributed to the report.