Senior policewoman dies of injuries after Israeli blaze

Israel's most senior policewoman, who had clung to life for four days after her patrol car was trapped in a burning forest, died yesterday of her wounds.

Deputy Commander Ahuva Tomer's story of self-sacrifice has gripped the nation, which held her up in sharp contrast to harsh criticism of other leaders accused of being woefully unprepared to confront the biggest wildfire in Israel's history.

Her death raised the toll from the five days of fires to 42. The blaze was virtually extinguished yesterday.

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Ms Tomer headed the police department in Israel's third-largest city Haifa. She was driving behind a bus of prison guards rushing to evacuate a prison last Thursday when both vehicles were engulfed in flames.

The policewoman came to personify the human tragedy of the fire after a TV reporter interviewed her just minutes before she set out on what became her last mission.

She spoke of the pain of seeing the forest burn and nodding ruefully, added: "It's heartbreaking. It looks like it will last a long time."

Minutes afterward, she radioed police to say she was on fire.