JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Firefighters on Thursday battled wildfires that scorched swathes of forests in central Israel, forcing some small towns to be evacuated, during a heatwave that brought record temperatures to parts of the country.
Rescue efforts focused on a wooded area between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where ground teams and airplane tankers fought back the flames for hours. By nightfall, the fires were mostly under control, according to police.
Some 3,500 residents of small towns were evacuated, officials said. More than a dozen houses burned down, local media reported.
Jerusalem, which sits higher up on hilltops, recorded temperatures of 37.5 degrees Celsius (99.5 Fahrenheit). Moving west toward the Mediterranean, the heat grew much more stifling. One town near Tel Aviv hit 43.5 degrees Celsius, according to the Israel Meteorological Service.
The heatwave was expected to continue into Friday, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached out to nearby countries to see if they could help if the wildfires worsen.
Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Hugh Lawson