BAABDA: Firefighters were struggling Monday to put out a huge fire that broke out in a Baabda village, threatening hundreds of nearby homes and forcing many residents to flee the area.
Thick plumes of black smoke blanketed the sky as ashes covered the ground.
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk asked all concerned agencies to “exert all efforts” to help put out the fire, which erupted around 6:30 a.m.
Civil Defense Director-General Raymond Khattar said first responders were doing the best they could within their capabilities, and that they were able to contain a section of the blaze.
Dozens of Army soldiers and fire fighters were called to the scene of the fire, which spread through the forests of Betshay, creeping towards residential areas in Baabda.
Unseasonably high temperatures coupled with strong, warm winds made it more difficult for Civil Defense units to douse the flames while an Army helicopter dropped water onto the fire.
“The fire started in Wadi Shahrour in the morning and the wind fanned it,” Kamil Barak, a taxi driver who lives nearby, told The Daily Star.
Nearby schools evacuated their students, fearing the fire might spread quickly.
MP Alain Aoun described the fire as a “new catastrophe,” saying the government should be more proactive rather than wait for such disasters to happen.
He also blamed the government for failing to sufficiently fund the Civil Defense.
"I was having coffee around 6:30 in the morning when I saw the fire starting," Elie, a resident of Baabda, told The Daily Star as the fire raged a few meters away.
"The first thing I did was call the municipality, which said 'It's not our problem,'" he added.
A distraught resident who fled her home said the Civil Defense were late in responding to her call.
“I called them at 7:45 a.m. and they came two hours later. That’s not right. They could have contained it,” the resident told a local television station.