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Keep away from Haifa, police urge curious Israelis after fire

Arrival of onlookers makes access more difficult for rescue personnel in aftermath of massive blaze that swept city

The Mediterranean sea and parts of the city can bee sen through a burned house following wildfires in Haifa, Israel, Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
The Mediterranean sea and parts of the city can bee sen through a burned house following wildfires in Haifa, Israel, Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The Israel Police on Saturday asked people to keep away from areas of Haifa affected by the massive blaze that swept through the city this week.

“It makes it harder for the firefighters to work. The arrival of curious onlookers makes it more difficult to keep traffic routes open to the teams of firefighters, police and security forces,” a police statement said.

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav also advised non-residents to stay away from the city until it has time to recover.

Police cleared all Haifa residents to return to their homes Friday afternoon, after more than 60,000 people were evacuated from the city on Thursday as the fires spread through the area.

Some 600-700 homes were damaged in the blazes, with over 400 of them said to be uninhabitable and 37 completely destroyed, city officials said. Some streets remained without electricity.

Flames from a massive forest fire in Haifa still burning on November 25, 2016. The massive fires in the city a day earlier led to the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents (Gili Yaari /Flash90)
Flames from a massive forest fire in Haifa still burning on November 25, 2016. The massive fires in the city a day earlier led to the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents (Gili Yaari /Flash90)

Police said officers would continue to patrol the affected neighborhoods to help any of the returning residents who need assistance.

“The public is asked to continue to be alert and take personal responsibility and show an abundance of caution when dealing with anything related to using fire and fire safety,” the police said.

Yahav said Friday that the evacuation of some 60,000 residents in the course of Thursday was the largest mass civilian mobilization in the country’s history.

Eitan Shariel inspects the damage inside his house in the northern city of Haifa following a wildfire, on November 25, 2016. ( AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)
Eitan Shariel inspects the damage inside his house in the northern city of Haifa following a wildfire, on November 25, 2016. ( AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)

 

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon visited Haifa on Friday, and authorized officials to hand out cash advances to those who were left homeless and without money.

“About places to sleep, I told the mayor and other officials across the country, don’t look at the money and the bureaucracy, just work. Now we have to find solutions for the residents,” the Walla news site quoted him as saying.

Several people have been arrested for trying to loot homes in the city that were evacuated, police officials said Friday.

More than a dozen people are in custody for allegedly starting some of the Haifa fires and others elsewhere in Israel. It is not clear how many of the fires were the result of arson, as opposed to negligence and the dry, windy weather.

A woman walks past burned cars in the northern Israeli city of Haifa following a wildfire, on November 25, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)
A woman walks past burned cars in the northern Israeli city of Haifa following a wildfire, on November 25, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)

 

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