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    RAF helps fight deadly Israel fire

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    ODN

    by ODN

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    RAF helicopters have joined an international effort to contain a massive forest fire in Israel.


    Two Griffin helicopters were deployed from the UK base at Akrotiri in Cyprus after Israeli authorities appealed for international assistance to deal with the biggest fire in the country's history, which has claimed at least 41 lives and forced thousands of people from their homes.


    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the UK for its help in a phone call with David Cameron.


    A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Cameron had "extended his sincere condolences and great sympathies" and said the UK was "glad to be able to help through the deployment of two UK helicopters based in Cyprus".


    Seven crew are manning the British helicopters from 84 Squadron of the RAF, flying over the blazing forest to dump water on to the flames.


    Speaking from Israel, RAF Flight Lieutenant Euan Johnson said: "We have flown a total of six sorties - over nine hours of flying time - today and approximately 85 tons of water have been dropped by UK forces."


    He added: "We are happy to report that we have extinguished at least 75 per cent of the fire that we saw this morning, in conjunction with forces from Greece and the Republic of Cyprus. We are well on the way to getting the fire completely under control."


    He added: "It is of monumental scale. It's the biggest fire that I have ever seen and the biggest fire that any of these crews from the UK forces have ever tackled.


    "The smoke in the sky obliterated the vast majority of the horizon as we approached Haifa. It was very difficult to distinguish exactly where the sea began and the sky stopped."