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December 03, 2010 (KATAKAMI / PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE) — “We have just heard a briefing by the professional elements and the responsible ministers. I would like to thank Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, who is in command on behalf of the Government, for all of the activity there.
We are in a very harsh event. We have over 40 dead. People are missing; people are injured. Many of these people perished in admirable courage and sacrificed themselves in order to save others. I would like to note our participation in the families’ grief and we send wishes for a rapid recovery for the wounded. We know that approximately 15,000 Israelis have been evacuated from their homes. We support them and we will take care of them. We will see to all the rebuilding, renovation and compensation as necessary in order to restore them to normal life. We will rehabilitate the Carmel with as national reconstruction plan.
I would like to praise the work being done in the field that is being carried out with exemplary cooperation. I would like to thank the Israel Police, the Fire and Rescue Service, the IDF, MDA, the hospitals and the Prison Service – which suffered a terrible blow; we are will with the families of the Prison Service personnel. I would also like to thank Israel’s citizens who have shown patience and equanimity, and are heeding directions in an exemplary manner, and therefore, it is possible to realize our first goal.
Our first goal is that there be no more loss of life. To this end, I gave instructions yesterday, which are being carried out, for evacuations whenever there is even the slightest concern that the fire might reach communities or neighborhoods. This is being carried out in an exemplary manner.
The second thing is to recognize the fact that our firefighting measures cannot provide an answer to forest fires of this magnitude, especially in the face of such winds. We do not have such equipment. Only airborne forces have such equipment and since yesterday we have been in contact with many foreign governments, in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, in order to bring these forces to Israel.
At this stage, four aircraft have arrived from Greece. I would like to thank my friend and colleague, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who responded immediately, and the mobilization here is exceptional, with all the crews and their logistical support.
I would also like to thank Cypriot President Demetris Christofias for dispatching a plane and a helicopter. The response was immediate, the aircraft are here. I would also like to thank UK Prime Minister David Cameron. Two British helicopters from Cyprus are here. All of these forces are helping us. UI would like to thank Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who offered and sent two planes, which are here; we welcome this. I would like to thank Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov for sending 100 firefighters, who are here. I would like to thank Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who sent a very large Russian plane, perhaps the largest of its kind in the world, which is en route. It will be here this afternoon.
We have also received aid and very generous offers of assistance from Egypt, Azerbaijan, Spain, Croatia, France and Jordan. I think that this symbolizes the unprecedented response to my appeal, to our appeal, for international assistance. This is important to the State of Israel in every respect, especially that of putting out the fires.
We are also in contact with the US. We are checking into the possibility of bring more planes here, if it becomes necessary, and from Canada as well. We have already hired an American plane from a private company, a ‘supertanker’ that will arrive here tomorrow afternoon. We are in he midst of a disaster of international proportions and we must use all forces, first of all to extinguish the fire; that is the first goal.
We will also organize two things: First, at the Sunday Cabinet meeting, we will submit a national plan to deal with all of the needs of those who were injured and are in distress, and next week we will submit for Cabinet decision and implementation a plan to purchase aircraft.” (*)