Wildfires rage in Israel during heatwave

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Firefighters have battled wildfires that scorched swaths of forest in central Israel and forced residents of some small towns to be evacuated.

The wildfires were reported during a sweltering 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 aerial tankers fought the flames for hours. By the evening, the fires were mostly under control, according to police.

Some 3,500 residents of some small towns were evacuated, officials said. More than a dozen houses burned down, local media reported.

Jerusalem, which sits at 754 metres above sea level, recorded temperatures of 37.5 degrees Celsius on Thursday afternoon – its May average is 26C.

Moving west towards the Mediterranean, the heat was even more stifling. One Tel Aviv suburb hit 43.5C, according to the Israel Meteorological Service. Temperatures should be nearer 25C at this time of the year.

The heatwave was expected to continue into Friday, with temperatures near 30C in Jerusalem by the weekend. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv should be back down around the average by Saturday afternoon with no rain forecast in the coming days.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been reaching out to nearby countries to see if they would be able to help should the wildfires worsen.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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