3 Dec 2010

Forest fire toll in Israel tops 40

5:03 pm on 3 December 2010

At least 40 people, many of them prison guards in a bus, have been killed and dozens injured in a massive forest fire in Israel.

The guards were in a bus trying to flee from the flames. About 500 inmates from a prison were moved to safety as the blaze near the northern city of Haifa spread.

An official says guards from around Israel had been attending a course at the prison and drove straight into the flames in a doomed bid to escape from danger.

Hundreds of people have been evacuated from areas around the Carmel Forest near Haifa, including dozens from a prison that houses Palestinan inmates.

Officials told the Jerusalem Post firefighters were unable to control the blaze, the cause of which is unknown.

Israel is currently in drought. The BBC reports there has been no significant rain since spring.