Gov't Ministries at Loggerheads Over Fire Damage

According to initial assessments, the Carmel Forest fire caused less damage than had originally been anticipated. Just how much damage was caused, however, is subject to debate.

The Finance Ministry says the fire caused NIS 100 million to NIS 120 million in damages and that 50% to 60% of the sum will be covered by insurance. The Interior Ministry says that the fire caused NIS 184 million in damages - a much larger sum.

Neither of these estimates include the damages to be paid to the families of the 43 people who lost their lives in the fire. Nor do they include the cost of rehabilitating the forest or rebuilding the country's firefighting services. They also do not include indirect damages.

Finance Ministry director general Haim Shani met on Thursday with representatives of the region to obtain more precise figures on damages. The Finance Ministry's estimate includes damages to homes, personal property and infrastructure, such as roads and sewage systems. Shani also spoke with insurance appraisers. On Thursday evening, Shani provided the ministry with his estimate of the damages.

Interior Ministry officials went through a similar process but came up with a figure that was 50% higher than the treasury's.

Since both are preliminary estimates, it is likely that the final figure will be higher.

The Finance Ministry said last weekend that it had told the Union of Local Authorities that families who lost their homes in the fire would immediately receive compensation of NIS 2,500.

It also allocated NIS 25 million for immediate infrastructure repairs in the Carmel, including to the water system.

The ministry also approved a NIS 3 million advance to the Isfiya municipality, where the fire began, so it could start repairing damages immediately.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will ask the government today to approve a proposal that would eliminate the requirement for a bidding process on government contracts connected to rehabilitation work in the Carmel. The proposal is meant to allow repair work to proceed more speedily.