Forest fires ravage Lebanon

The government is being asked to declare a state of emergency.

    A regional governor said the fires
    were a regional disaster [AFP]

    Brigadier-General Darweesh Hobeika, the head of the Lebanese Civil Defence, said that about 85 fires started on Tuesday and 118 on Monday.
     
    The fires are estimated to have destroyed about 100 hectares of woodland.
     
    "It's a 95 per cent possibility that the fires were caused intentionally by people trying to obtain charcoal as a cheaper substitute for fuel," Hobeika said.
     
    Some believe the fires, similar to those that broke out in Greece before elections earlier this year, are politically motivated.
     
    Countrywide destruction
     
    A source at the civil defence ministry said between 60 and 70 per cent of the fires had been contained, but that some were still out of control in Rashayya in the eastern Bekaa Valley and Barouk in the southeastern Shouf region.
     
    Television footage showed several burned-out cars on roads in the Shouf region and smoke billowing from thick forests.
     
    The Deir al-Qamar's deputy governor said the fires were an environmental disaster.
     

    The fires were worst near Deir al-Qamar [EPA]

    Big fires were also reported in the northern region of Akkar and several in the Metn area northeast of Beirut.
     
    Local media said some residents had been evacuated. Nine people trying to fight fires in the north had suffered from smoke inhalation, hospital sources said.
     
    The Lebanese Committee for the Prevention of Fires urged the authorities to declare a state of emergency.
     
    It said in a statement: "Lebanon is on the brink of desertification and the woodlands no longer exceed 10 per cent [of its area]."
     
    Lebanon's interior minister requested fire-fighting planes from Italy.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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