UK condolences amid Israel fire

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Firefighters try to extinguish the flames in Tirat Hacarmel, northern Israel (AP)

Foreign Secretary William Hague has sent Britain’s condolences to people affected by forest fires in Israel that have claimed at least 41 lives.

Firefighters have been struggling for two days to control the worst blaze in Israeli history, which has forced thousands of people to flee their homes near the city of Haifa.

Two RAF helicopters from Cyprus have been sent to Israel as part of a massive international assistance effort. Aircraft are being used to dump tons of water on to the blazing Carmel Forest.

Mr Hague promised that Britain would do “whatever it can” to help the Israeli emergency teams get the fires under control.

In a statement issued by the Foreign Office in London, Mr Hague said: “The British Government has been saddened by the Carmel Forest fire in northern Israel which has claimed so many lives.

“On behalf of the whole Government, I send my condolences to those who have lost family members. Our thoughts are with the thousands who have had to leave their homes due to the blaze.

“This tragedy is all the more sad as it comes as the Jewish community around the world celebrates Chanukah, a time of hope and joy.

“The Prime Minister has instructed the Royal Air Force to deploy two helicopters from Cyprus, and these are now in Israel assisting with the international effort to put out the fires. The UK will continue to do whatever it can to help.”

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