December 8, 2010 / 1 Tevet 5771
From the moment the flames of the devastating Carmel fire encroached upon the northern city of Kiryat Hacarmel, Mayor Arieh Tal was on high alert.
Working round the clock with the police, fire fighters and city workers, they succeeded in evacuating 11,000 residents from their homes, as well as 800 patients from an area psychiatric hospital.
"It took tremendous cooperation to not only put out the fire but to evacuate our residents safely and without panic," said Mayor Tal.
The fire, which lasted four days, claiming 42 lives, consuming an estimated 10,000 acres of forest and about four million trees, and destroying thousands of homes, was eventually extinguished.
But in the aftermath of the fire, there is still much work to be done. In addition to the physical work of cleaning up the city and rebuilding homes, experts counsel that it is crucial to provide residents, particularly children, with the support they need to recover from the trauma.
"Thankfully, all of our residents are back at home," said Mayor Tal. "But now we have more work to do. From the first moment we approached people's homes to help evacuate them safely and to remove children from the danger, the psychological impact was felt. People did not know if they would return to their homes at all."
The municipality is currently bringing teams of social workers and psychologists into the schools to help children and youth. And the Jewish Agency has joined forces with local youth organizations to bus over 1,000 children and youth to Tel Aviv for various fun-days and activities to help them get back on their feet emotionally.
But there is still much work to be done.
"After all that has happened in Tirat Hacarmel we still need a lot of help and support from the Jewish communities around the world. We cannot do this alone and need their continued support to get us back on track and able to return to our normal lives," said Tal.