x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Israel's top policewoman dies from fire burns

Israel's most senior policewoman has died, four days after her patrol car was trapped in the Israeli wildfires.

JERUSALEM // Israel's top policewoman, who had clung to life for four days after her patrol car was trapped in a burning Israel forest, died on Monday of her wounds.

Deputy Commander Ahuva Tomer, head of the police department in Haifa, Israel's third-largest city, had been driving behind a bus of prison guards rushing to evacuate a prison on Thursday when both vehicles were engulfed in flames.

Her death raised to 42 the number of people who died in the wildfire that consumed a 50-square-kilometre area in the Carmel forest, a popular nature spot on Haifa's outskirts. It is the worst fire in Israel's history.

The 52-year-old policewoman became a symbol of the fire's victims after a TV reporter interviewed her just minutes before she set out on what became her last mission. She spoke of the pain of seeing the forest burn and nodding ruefully, added, "It looks like it will last a long time."

The fire that killed the Soviet-born Tomer has generated much soul-searching in Israel about the state of the country's leadership, because firefighters had long warned that the neglected state of their operation was a recipe for disaster.

Hours after the blaze broke out on Thursday, firefighters ran out of flame-retardant chemicals. They also did not have a single firefighting plane in their possession.

Israel was forced to appeal to other countries to send planes and material to put out the blaze, which on Monday had been reduced to one isolated point, according to police.

Two teenage brothers are being held on suspicion that they inadvertently set the fire. Two other minors were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the fire and were being questioned on Monday, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Most of the 17,000 people evacuated during the fire have returned to their homes.