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Lebanon News

North Lebanon forest fires rage despite efforts to douse flames

  • Civilians use tree branches as they try to put out a fire in Akkar, Saturday, June 29, 2013. (The Daily Star/Stringer)

AKKAR, Lebanon: As temperatures reached 38 degrees, wildfires spread across north Lebanon, especially in Akkar, over the weekend with Civil Defense units still struggling to put them out Sunday night.

Fears were raised when a series of wild fires broke out Saturday night in the dry bushes surrounding northern towns of Ayyat, Al-Dawra and along the outskirts of Beino.

The Lebanese Army and Civil Defense personnel managed to extinguish flames in certain areas. However, up until Sunday night, fires remained uncontrollable and dangerous in many Akkar areas, sometimes extending toward residential areas and reaching many hectors of pine and oak trees in the dense forest of Arid Saba Hill.

In the Hab Valley, which separates Abri Samra from Koura, a fire destroyed about 500 oak and olive trees before Civil Defense teams were able to control and put it out.

According to the state-run National News Agency, at around 4 p.m. Sunday an Army helicopter flew over the Akkar areas where the wildfires broke out.

“A huge plastic pond has been set up in Ayyat from where the helicopter picked up water,” the NNA statement said.

While waiting for the Civil Defense to reach affected areas, citizens and Army members resorted to using spades, shovels and water hoses to prevent the flames from spreading to residential areas.

According to Civil Defense sources, the Bakeesh neighborhood was also threatened by fires.

On one occasion, before being put out, a car belonging to the Civil Defense also caught on the fire, with some members trapped inside.

Teaming up with the Lebanese Army, the Civil Defense voiced demands for additional reinforcements to control the fires, some firefighters resorted to bringing their own vehicles.

The mountainous region of Akkar exacerbated fears that fire might spread to no man’s land.

Though the Defense Ministry provided the Civil Defense with helicopters, the latter said helicopters alone might not be able to contain the widespread flames.

The residents have been calling on the Army to send additional military helicopters to would help with extinguishing efforts before the night falls.

Brush fires began breaking out Thursday in the Jbeil towns of Mastita and Monsef. Civil Defense Friday extinguished brush fires that broke out during midday heat in Jeita.

The fires came as no surprise as weather forecasts had anticipated a heat wave last week.

According to the Meteorological Department at Rafik Hariri International Airport in a statement released Thursday, coastal area temperatures would range between 20 and 36 degrees on Saturday.

As for the mountainous areas, the temperatures were expected to range between 22 and 32 degrees. The temperatures in the Cedars were expected to range between 18 and 39 degrees inland.

The warm winds have also instigated the spread of flames in these rugged areas, which are inaccessible to Civil Defense except by helicopter.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 30, 2014, on page 4.
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Summary

As temperatures reached 38 degrees, wildfires spread across north Lebanon, especially in Akkar, over the weekend with Civil Defense units still struggling to put them out Sunday night.

The Lebanese Army and Civil Defense personnel managed to extinguish flames in certain areas. However, up until Sunday night, fires remained uncontrollable and dangerous in many Akkar areas, sometimes extending toward residential areas and reaching many hectors of pine and oak trees in the dense forest of Arid Saba Hill.

According to the state-run National News Agency, at around 4 p.m. Sunday an Army helicopter flew over the Akkar areas where the wildfires broke out.

On one occasion, before being put out, a car belonging to the Civil Defense also caught on the fire, with some members trapped inside.


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