Lebanon Asks Neighbours For Help To Fight Forest Fires
Lebanon has turned to its neighbours for help battling forest fires that have ravaged homes and killed a volunteer firefighter in the Mediterranean country, its premier said on Tuesday.
Heavy rain fell on parts of the country including Beirut in the evening, after Cyprus dispatched help and as Greece and Jordan vowed to follow suit.
“We have contacted the Europeans who will send means of help,” Prime Minister Saad Hariri said earlier in comments carried by national news agency NNA.
Dozens of blazes have hit Lebanon in recent days, fire chief Raymond Khattar told NNA, amid unusually high temperatures and strong winds.
Thick smoke had been seen drifting over the outskirts of Beirut, the mountainous Chouf region to its southeast, and the southern city of Saida.
In the Chouf, an area famed for its forests, a volunteer firefighter lost his life trying to put out the flames, his family said.
In an area south of Beirut, firefighters have for two days been unable to stop the blaze, which has burnt four homes to the ground and caused dozens to suffer breathing difficulties, NNA said.
Interior Minister Raya El-Hassan said nearby Cyprus and Greece had responded to Lebanon’s call for help.
“Two Cypriot planes have been working to put out the fires since yesterday,” she said on Twitter.
“Greece has responded to our request and will send two planes to help us,” she added.
Jordan’s army said the king had ordered two firefighting planes to be dispatched.
NNA said the army was working together with helicopters and the Cypriot planes to fight the blaze, with access sometimes impeded by thick smoke and high-voltage power lines.
Personnel from UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL, who usually patrol the country’s southern border with Israel, have also joined in the efforts, the agency said.
Lebanese on social media criticised the government’s apparent inability to respond fast enough on its own.
In neighbouring war-torn Syria, fires also killed two people, Syrian state media said.
Flames have ripped through parts of the coastal provinces of Latakia and Tartus, as well as the central province of Homs but most have been brought under control, state news agency SANA said.
Two members of the Latakia forestry department were killed while fighting the blaze, it added.
In Tartus, the fires — mostly stamped out — coincided with the olive harvest, the governor told SANA.
In Homs, trees were burnt and electricity networks disrupted in mountainous areas, the agency reported.
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