Jerusalem – Two young Israeli children lost their lives and multiple individuals were treated for smoke inhalation after a devastating fire swept through a Beitar Ilit apartment building on Tuesday night.
The fire took place on the second floor of a five story apartment building located on Rechov Knesset Mordechai, with two year old Tzvi Ginsberg and his four year old sister Efrat both perishing in the flames.
The Ginsberg children were the great-great grandchildren of Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein and grandchildren of Rabbi Shlomo Ginsberg, rosh mesivta of Yeshiva Harei Yehuda, according to Channel 10 (http://bit.ly/2y9Tj6m).
A relative who spoke with the media said that the two children had been left home with their older sisters and were being cared for by an eleven year old sister.
The three older girls ran out of the apartment to a neighbor when the fire broke out at approximately 9 PM and were unable to rescue the two younger children.
According to one neighbor, the fire was caused by a nightlight that exploded and fell onto a bed, but no official cause has been determined at this time.
Fire department representative Didi Simchi said that rescue teams responded to the fire within four to five minutes, evacuating and treating casualties as expeditiously as possible, but were unable to save the two children in the burning apartment.
Neighbors told a different story, saying that the fire department did not respond in a timely fashion and their efforts were further hampered by a backlog of medical rescue vehicles that were clogging the streets.
Simchi defended the fire department’s performance against those accusations, saying that conditions were particularly difficult, with extremely high temperatures, intense fires and massive amounts of smoke creating tremendous problems for the fire crews.
Magen David Adom driver Yossi Yona said that the entire building was filled with smoke when he arrived at the scene, with one apartment completely engulfed in flames.
Yona said that rescue teams climbed in through windows, rescuing children from the kitchen of one apartment and others from porches where they had sought safety. Massive amounts of smoke prevented rescuers from entering the Ginsberg apartment, said Yona.
A 22 year old man, a woman in her mid-thirties and two girls under the age of ten suffering from smoke inhalation were all taken to Shaarei Zedek Medical Center. Eight others were treated at the scene.
As police and fire officials are continue their investigation, psychologists and social workers have been brought into Beitar Ilit to provide services to the grieving family. An official statement from the city of Beitar Ilit announced the deaths of the two young children.
“Together with all the residents of our city we are stunned, mourning and shaken by the tragic deaths of these two young children, Efrat and Tzvi Ginsberg, who died in the fire tonight in their home.”