Australia sends urgent bushfire assistance to Israel

Australia said on Sunday it would urgently send fire-fighting experts to Israel to help it combat a massive blaze that has raged for three days, killing more than 40 people.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she had spoken to her Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu to confirm Australia’s assistance and convey her condolences over the losses from the Carmel forest blaze in the country’s north.

“A team of air base managers and air attack controllers with expertise in controlling or directing fire-fighting aircraft are being deployed to Israel within the next 24 hours,” Gillard said in a statement.

“Arrangements are also under way to transport chemical fire retardant if this is required by Israel,” she said, adding that the Australian military was assisting with logistics.

Among the team being sent to Israel is Victoria’s Department of Sustainability and Environment chief fire officer Ewan Waller, one of those who led efforts to battle bushfires that killed 173 people in 2009.

A number of countries have pledged to help Israel fight the biggest inferno in its 62-year history, and foreign planes and helicopters are already working to douse the flames.—AFP

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