Brush fires flare up as heatwave envelops Israel
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Brush fires flare up as heatwave envelops Israel

Fire trucks and aircraft called in to tackle large blaze near Beit Shemesh; copse catches fire in Haifa

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative photo of firefighters extinguishing a forest fire, April 25, 2016. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of firefighters extinguishing a forest fire, April 25, 2016. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

As a severe heatwave descended on the country Sunday, fire and rescue services were called out to tackle large two brush fires and other smaller blazes in various locations.

At Luzit, southeast of Beit Shemesh outside Jerusalem, rescue services briefly evacuated some residents from their homes as firefighters took on a large blaze that swept through forests in the area.

Along with eight firetrucks, four firefighting aircraft were also called in to assist in putting out the flames.

Further north, in the Neve Sha’anan neighborhood of Haifa, a small grove caught fire. Six firetrucks were called to attend to the blaze, which caused a pall of smoke that covered surrounding streets. The fire was brought under control and there were no reports of injuries.

Meanwhile, Route 85 in the north was temporarily closed as firefighters battled a fire that consumed thorn bushes at the sides of the road. In Tel Mond, near the coastal city of Netanya, a fire broke out in a thorn field. Firetrucks rushed to the scene to prevent the flames spreading further through the community.

Another fire was reported in the area of Abu Ghosh in the hills outside Jerusalem.

In Petah Tikva a fire broke out next to a kindergarten after a tree came in contact with electric cables. Firefighters strove to bring the blaze under control before it could damage the kindergarten or the residential building where it is housed.

The fires came as a particularly sweltering forecast predicted a dire heatwave for the first half of the week.

Illustrative photo of Israelis relaxing on the beach in the southern city of Eilat. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of Israelis relaxing on the beach in the southern city of Eilat. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Meteorologists predicted temperatures in Jerusalem would climb to 37ºC (98.6ºF) during the day and drop only to about 28ºC (82.4ºF) at night.

Tel Aviv was set to sizzle at 39ºC (102ºF), down to 25ºC (77ºF) at night; Haifa was set to be 25º-38ºC (77º-100ºF); and Tiberias 25º-42ºC (77º-107ºF).

In the south, Beersheba was expected to reach 42ºC (107ºF) during the day and 25ºC (77ºF) at night and in the southern port city of Eilat the temperature was predicted to reach a scorching 45ºC (113ºF) during the day, dropping to 31ºC (89ºF) at night.

High winds from the north were also expected along the coast later on Sunday.

The high temperatures, which are to continue for two days, had forecasters warning of brush fires breaking out.

By Tuesday the heat was predicted to break, with a slight cooling off in most areas, and a further drop on Wednesday.

Veteran forecaster Uri Batz told the Walla news website that temperatures could approach records for the month of May.

“The heatwave that will reach our region this week will be unusually long. It will continue for five straight days during which the first two days will be especially hot,” he said.

In Eilat, the record for May was recorded on May 31, 1980, at 45.2ºC (113.36ºF).

Beersheba, in the northern Negev, recorded its highest temperature for the month on May 21, 1970, at 45ºC (113ºF).

April also saw some of the highest temperatures ever for the month in some areas of the country.

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