A fire broke out on Thursday morning in a residential building in the city of Beit Shemesh, leaving 19 people suffering from smoke inhalation, mostly children, including two who were hospitalized in serious condition.
The blaze started on the bottom floor of the building on Hazon Ish Street, with smoke rising to the other floors.
Ten people were extracted from the apartment that suffered the worst damage. Three members of the same family suffered the worst injuries, including 6- and 7-year-old children who were in serious condition. The children were sedated and attached to a respirator, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service. A 22-year-old woman was moderately hurt.
There were 16 others in the building who suffered light injuries, including a dozen children. All of the casualties were taken to either Assaf Harofeh hospital in central Israel or the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem.
“We woke up around 6:00 a.m. from loud shouts and didn’t understand what was going on,” one of the building’s residents was quoted as saying by the Ynet news site. “There was a strong smell of fire and we figured that an apartment was probably burning. We took all the kids to the balcony and later took them out.”
Another neighbor said: “We got up to a burnt smell and tumult and found out there was a fire in our building. We quickly got organized and went to the balcony because the whole building was full of smoke. We looked out the window and saw children and family members were being rescued, their faces were black.”
Five teams of firefighters operated at the scene, extinguishing the fire. They earlier helped rescue the residents through windows with a crane.
There was no immediate indication of what sparked the blaze.