ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 138

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6 rescued after they were swept out by Sea of Galilee winds

Haze clouds skies as Israel swelters under heatwave amid fire, flash flood warnings

Fire chief signs order amid concerns the weather conditions could lead to fast-spreading blazes; with rain also expected, police warn of dangers of flash floods in east and south

File: A view shows the skyline of Tel Aviv covered by a cloud of dust, on March 23, 2021. (Jack Guez/AFP)
File: A view shows the skyline of Tel Aviv covered by a cloud of dust, on March 23, 2021. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Dust and haze blanketed Israel’s skies on Saturday, as the country sweltered under a heatwave and officials warned of the danger of forest fires and flash floods.

Temperatures were set to reach 35-40°C (95-104°F) in various parts of the country, as many took advantage of the long weekend after the Shavuot holiday.

Six young people were rescued at the Sea of Galilee after they were swept out by strong winds.

With rain forecast in some parts of the country, authorities said there was a chance of potentially dangerous flash floods.

Due to the extreme weather conditions, Fire and Rescue Commissioner Eyal Caspi signed an order prohibiting the lighting of fires in open areas throughout the country from 8:00 a.m.

The order will remain in effect for 24 hours and came amid concerns that the dry weather and strong winds could increase the chance of fires spreading.

The ban applies to lighting fires in parks, forests and nature reserves.

On Monday, a number of homes and 200 students were evacuated as a massive fire spread near the central city of Petah Tikva, also damaging train equipment and causing transportation delays. At the same time, firefighting planes were deployed to help fight a blaze at Biriya Forest in the Upper Galilee region.

Firefighters tackle a forest fire at Segula Junction on May 22, 2023. (Fire and Rescue Service)

The vast majority of forest fires in Israel are manmade and are usually the result of negligence.

Israel experiences long, hot and dry summers, with conditions ripe for wildfires. Large blazes broke out in 1989, 1995, 2010, 2015, 2019 and 2021.

Climate models show that such large-scale blazes are getting more frequent and more fast-spreading, in part due to the climate crisis raising temperatures and causing even more extreme summers with drier conditions.

Temperatures were set to fall on Sunday, with rain expected in many parts of the country.

However, authorities warned that there was a chance of dangerous flash flooding in the south.

Police advised the public to stay away from riverbeds in the south during the coming days, with heavy rain expected on Sunday and Monday.

Last month, brother and sister Ma’ayan, 24, and Sahar, 17, Assor, both residents of the northern city of Tiberias, were killed after their car was carried away by a flash flood in southern Israel.

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