Wildfires rage across Israel during heatwave

Firefighters have battled wildfires that scorched swathes of forests 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 airplane tankers fought the flames for hours. By night, 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 a temperatures of 37.5C 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 nearer 30C in Jerusalem by the weekend. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv should be back down around the average by Saturday afternoon.

With no no rain forecast in the coming days. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been reaching out to nearby countries to see if they ‘could’ help should the wildfires worsen.

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