As part of the international assistance programme, the three Swiss helicopters were used for fire-fighting flights until the fires were finally brought under control and the operations of the international helpers were concluded. The helicopters are still standing by at Haifa airport so that they can be deployed immediately should the fires flare up again. They will begin their two-day return journey to Switzerland on Thursday, 9 December.
On 2 December 2010, the Israeli government asked Switzerland for assistance with fire-fighting helicopters and fire-extinguishing materials to deal with the devastating fires in the Carmel mountain range. On 3 December, the Federal Council decided to help the Israeli authorities by sending three Cougar helicopters of the Swiss air force.
Just a few hours after the decision, an advance detachment was dispatched to Israel. The transfer of the helicopters via Athens went off smoothly, as did the integration of the Swiss teams into the international operation. A total of 37 Swiss military and SDC personnel have been deployed: ten pilots, 13 mechanics, eleven in the operations staff and three employees from the Swiss humanitarian aid unit, who are supporting and coordinating the operation.
In a ceremony of thanks in Jerusalem, Israel’s President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today praised the international assistance as an act of solidarity. Like all the international helpers present, the Swiss experts received a certificate of thanks.
The widespread fires in the Carmel mountains near Haifa claimed 42 lives. Over five million trees were destroyed in an area of 50 km2. 17,000 people had to be evacuated.
Georg Farago, FDFA Media Spokesperson, tel. +41 (0)31 323 11 28 /+41 (0)79 301 70 35
Stefan Hofer, Head of Communication of the Armed Forces Command Staff, tel. +41 (0)31 323 37 41 /+41 (0)79 371 58 32
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