UPDATE 2-Israeli forest fire extinguished, 42 dead

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Monday, 6 December 2010 09:04 GMT

(Recasts for death of police chief, updates arrests)

JERUSALEM, Dec 6 (Reuters) - A forest fire that killed 42 people in northern Israel's Carmel region and triggered a broad international aid effort has been extinguished, Israeli police said on Monday.

Efforts to beat down the blaze, which erupted on Thursday, were helped by overnight rains, rare in a parched winter for Israel. Most of those killed were prison guards sent to help evacuate a jail in the Carmel mountains, south of Haifa port.

Haifa police chief Ahuva Tomer, who suffered serious injuries in that mission, died on Monday, her family said.

Israeli media, which assessed the cost of the damage at around 2 billion shekels (${esc.dollar}550 million), said most of the foreign firefighters who had answered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's appeal for help would depart later in the day.

"All of the fires were officially extinguished as of midnight," police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said.

He said eight people had been arrested on suspicion of setting the fire either deliberately or through negligence.

The disaster prompted recrimination within Netanyahu's coalition government and public calls for the resignation of Interior Minister Eli Yishai, one of its most powerful partners.

The Israeli fire brigade said it would take several days to confirm evacuated areas of the Carmel mountain range were safe. The blaze was stopped before it could threaten Haifa. (Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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