Friday, December 03, 2010

More on Fire - update

More fire updates:

I had written the name of the Druse Village damaged incorrectly –
should be Issafiya and not as I spelled it.

The two coastal highways leading into and out of Haifa are both closed.

There are still conflicting reports coming out about the cause of the
fire, with some still saying it was terrorist arson. I would not put
it past the Israeli government to try to save its "peace process
pretense" by hiding the fact that the "accident" was really arson and
prettifying it.

Tirat Karmel, the impoverished town just south of Haifa, has largely
been evacuated, mainly due to smoke. The flames themselves have not
done much damage there. Ditto for the Denya neighborhood in Haifa
near the university.

The guy at the supermarket where I shop for shabbas joked that if the
wind changes, the store will have a sale on barbecued chicken but
without the need to put them into the grill roaster. I guess the
other joke being the sudden shortage of marshmallows.

Smoke seen from my home windows was threatening and huge this morning
but now, about 11:30 AM local, looks calmer.

My colleague and friend Prof. Menachem Kellner has been sending out
fire updates. Here is a copy of his latest:

overnight the neighborhood near the University (Denya="Denmark") was
evacuated but remains unharmed so far. It is the fanciest neighborhood
in Haifa, all private homes.

I have not heard news yet about the status of our police chief and
pray for her recovery.

The topography of the city is complicated. Haifa is a sort of
peninsula extending into the Mediterranean in a northwesterly
direction. The Carmel mountain (which is simply the northesternly end
of a range of hills) dominates the city - at the extreme end, the
mountain almost kisses the water, which it quite striking and
beautiful (and also makes town planning, driving, etc. a bit
complicated - which is why the brand new Carmel Tunnel is such a
boon). The mountain itself is riven by deep gullies (wadis), which
adds to the beauty of the city, but it also means that almost everyone
lives on a hillside (good for lovely views from most homes, but hard
on arthritic knees). So, by air, Denya is probably only a mile from
our home, on the ground the distance is probaby closer to three miles.

Overnight 20,000 people were evacuated from their homes, from villages
in the Carmel Forest, from Denya, and from Tirat Carmel, so far, thank
God, without any incidents whatsoever. I want to tell you a story
about that. A few years ago Jolene and I were on a flight from
Rochester to NYC. After take off, the pilot announced that there was a
problem with the flaps and our descent would be steeper than usual,
but "there was nothing to worry about." A few minutes later he
announced that in addition, our landing would be bumpier and more
dramatic than ususal, but "there was nothing to worry about." Shortly
after that, he accounced that when we came to an abrupt halt on the
ground, the plane would be surrounded by fire trucks and other
emergency vehicles, but "there was nothing to worry about." The woman
sitting next to Jolene was totally freaking out (I was absorbed in a
rerun of "Law and Order" thoughfully provided by JetBlue) and Jolene
spent the whole flight holding her hand, figuratively, and, as I
recall, literally. After our (indeed dramatic) landing, the woman
asked Jolene how it was she remained so calm. Jolene said: "After so
many years of living in Israel, who can get worked up over a little
thing like this?" Most people here are disciplined in times of
emergency (but ONLY in times of emergency), and do not get worked up
over "a little thing" like this - so far so good.

gotta run (shabbat approaches), will write again, I hope, before shabbat.


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