By The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
On Thursday December 2, 2010, a forest fire broke out in Israel’s Carmel countryside, which spread rapidly across the tinder-dry land.
Forty-one people died, and dozens more have been injured. Ten thousand residents, including 600 prison inmates, were evacuated as the blaze raged out of control, devastating hundreds of acres of pine forest before sweeping down the slopes of the Carmel plateau towards Israel’s third largest city, Haifa.
As of Friday, the blaze had spread and currently the fire is not yet under control.
The Prime Minister’s Office is overseeing the response effort, which is being coordinated on the ground by the Israeli Police Force.
JDC immediately activated its emergency network and reached out to its government and municipal partners in order to assess the needs on the ground and offer assistance.
JDC is working closely with the Ministries of Social Affairs and Health and as well as the Home Front Command and the National Emergency Network to monitor the situation and make a clear assessment of the current needs as well as those that will arise once the fire has been extinguished.
As the fire broke out, JDC’s programs that serve Israel’s most vulnerable populations including elderly, disabled and youth at risk, immediately reached out their clients to assist in their evacuation, provide emotional support and ensure their immediate basic needs are addressed. In addition, JDC volunteer initiatives are working closely with the local municipalities to provide additional support as needed. In communities where these programs exist, the ability to address the needs quickly was marked in comparison to other locations.
In addition, JDC’s emergency response systems developed during the second intifada as well as the Second Lebanon War have been activated to ensure all support and assistance that is required by people in need can be provided.
JDC Action Plan
At this stage, the Government of Israel and the municipalities are in control of the situation (not the fire) . There is still a great deal of uncertainty as the fire continues to rage regarding the implications of this crisis. However, it is highly expected that there will be critical needs to be addressed in the aftermath to including addressing the financial toll on homes, communities business and lives as well as the emotional impact of this tragedy.
In the aftermath, JDC will launch immediate rehabilitation programs in the North of Israel that will provide:
1. Assistance to affected frail elderly, disabled and children and communities
2. Deployment of local Emergency Response Teams
3. Psycho-social Support for children and families.
For more, go to the JDC blog, www.jdcambassadorscircle.blogspot.com