Heat Wave Blamed for Rash of Destructive Brushfires in Israel

As temperatures soar to 40 degrees Celsius and beyond, residents and Passover holidaymakers are evacuated from wooded areas that go up in flames.There are no reported injuries.

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Residents were confined to their homes as firefighters battled flames in Sheikh Danoun village in Israel's north on April 26, 2016.
Residents were confined to their homes as firefighters battled flames in Sheikh Danoun village in Israel's north on April 26, 2016.Credit: Zevulun region firefighters

A heat wave engulfing Israel was blamed for igniting brush and woodland fires around the country on Tuesday.

Visitors were evacuated from a rafting location at the banks of the Jordan River at Kibbutz Gadot in the north due to a brushfire that created a lot of smoke.

A brushfire also erupted near Kibbutz Yizreel in northern Israel. Israeli police blamed that conflagration on the negligence of holidaymakers who left burning charcoal behind. Firefighters managed to douse a third fire that flared along the northern border with Lebanon, near Shlomi.

A fourth fire left charred asbestos remains near the village of Sheikh Danun in Western Galilee, where inhabitants were ordered to remain indoors to avoid inhaling dangerous soot particles.

In Israel's center, police temporarily shut a part of the busy Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway near the Anabeh junction as flames licked at brush near the road.

Two Israelis have been questioned by police for suspected negligence responsible for a blaze on Monday near the city of Safed in northern Israel. The couple has been accused of leaving burning charcoal embers behind from a barbecue, blamed for the blaze in the Biriya forest, a fire that consumed close to 70 dunams (17 acres) of woodland.

Many visitors had to be evacuated from the Biriya area and six firefighter aircraft worked for hours to douse the flames from above, before the fire was brought under control.

Temperatures rising since the start of the week hit 39 degrees Celsius (102 Fahrenheit) in the Tel Aviv area on Tuesday and in destinations further to the south the mercury levels rose above 40.

The unusual-for-April weather was due to a stream of hot air from Egypt, accompanied by unusually warm southerly winds. Cooler air was expected to hit the country by Wednesday, though, when the wind changes direction. Temperatures in Israel may drop by as much as 15 degrees over a 24-hour period, forecasters say.

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