Ever heard of California? Australia? Greece? Russia? I ask because they all spring to mind when talking about gigantic fires which rage uncontrolled for weeks, causing loss of life and enormous economic damage. Nature is often greater than Man's ability to control it.
The public recriminations in Israel are already starting, and can be expected to get worse. Harshly lambasting the government is a national pastime. There's probably a lot of truth to the allegations that the fire-fighters are underfunded, under-equipped, lack a national command structure, and generally were near the back of the line of issues crying out for government funding. Moreover, if the political fallout includes some harm to Eli Yishai, the head of Shass and perhaps the Neandethal-in-Chief of the present coalition, who's going to complain.
the four snapshots taken by Dan Oren, a coincidental observer to the worst part of the story, the incident in which 41 people died, pole-vaulting the fire to an international story and calamity.
Flames that size can't be stopped, not by any force humans can wield; if you follow the entire sequence, taken within seconds, you'll see the speed with which the fire raced forward.
Nor is the growing chatter about how predictable the whole thing was, serious. The final bout of rain last winter was early, at the end of February. Then we had the hottest summer on record, and so far, the driest and hottest autumn ever; 2010 is apparently the first year since records began in the late 19th century in which there has been no effective rain by early December. In 2006 Hezbullah shot thousands of rockets at Israel, and there were no major fires; this one seems to have been started by one campfire light by two young idiots, then fanned by unusually strong, hot and dry easterly winds, in an area which normally has westerly winds which would have blown the fire away from the forest.
In the meantime, the rescue efforts included a reasonably efficient and orderly evacuation of some 20,000 people from their homes; there have been no reports of looting; and officialdom seems confident the damage payments will be paid out fairly and soon.
I'm all in favor of learning lessons from failures so there will be fewer of them next time, or they'll happen in unexpected places. I don't see how this event could have been prevented, no matter how much preparation there had been.
I'm also not going to join the chorus of fundraisers. I appreciate people's willingness to donate money in the aftermaths of calamities, but the situation in Haiti remains vastly worse than anything we've got here; Pakistan, too, though it's not clear your well-intentioned donations will reach their targets in Pakistan. Israel is a sovereign country with a functioning state, and we'll deal with whatever needs to be dealt with. Lost lives are lost forever, but all the other parts of the story will fixed; even the charred forest will eventually recover, though it may take a generation. (Goldblog is saying the same; he's often right).