Lebanon calls for help as forest fires spread

Lebanon calls for help with spreading wildfires

Since Monday wildfires across Lebanon have killed at least one person, prompting Beirut to deploy water cannon and call on its neighbours for help. The cause of the fire, which spread from the south of Beirut up to northern pine forests, remains unknown. Nonetheless, some officials have blamed an autumn heat wave that hit the country in recent days.

Lebanon’s Red Cross said that 18 people have so far been hospitalized and 88 have received emergency medical care. A civil defence official said 104 fires had broken out over the past 24 hours. Residents were evacuated from homes and buildings. The fires have left charred trees and burned-out cars. Lebanon’s fire brigades can’t cope with the massive destruction. “The fire was so strong it did not leave anything. It did not leave any greens, any buildings, anything,” said Hussein Mcheik outside his home in the badly afflicted Mechref area south of Beirut.

Lebanon calls for help as forest fires spread
Wildfires spread through parts of Lebanon, Syria

Environment Minister Fadi Jreissati confirmed that at least one person had been killed. He called the situation “catastrophic”, adding: “Hopefully everyone helping will remain cautious. We still have two hard days ahead and the heat and wind will stay strong.” Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said an investigation would be opened and if arson was the cause, the perpetrators would “pay a price,” though he said the fires might be the result of climate change, which often brings weather drier and hotter than normal.

Lebanon calls for help as forest fires spread
Burned vehicles smoulder after wildfires swept through Damour, south of Beirut, Lebanon October 15, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Lebanon has asked for international help battling the fires. So far Cyprus has sent helicopters and Greece has agreed to help by offering two aircraft. Interior Minister Raya al-Hassan said. “We have contacted all the countries that can help us,” he said.

(Source Laila Bassam and Reuters)

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