BEIRUT: Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk warned Sunday that Lebanon would see a rise in temperatures this week, increasing the risk of forest fires.
"Starting May 14, Lebanon will witness a rise in temperatures for several days, which raises the likelihood of fires,” Machnouk said during the launch of the “Big Blue” campaign to clean up a beach in Sidon.
The minister called on citizens to be on high alert and report any fire they see as quickly as possible.
He also called on the appropriate agencies, particularly the Civil Defense, to be on high alert and ready to intervene “to deal with the fire before it escalates.”
Last week, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk announced new procedures to better combat fires, days after a huge blaze in Baabda destroyed between 300,000 and 500,000 square meters of forest in Wadi Shahrur including the Khandak al-Ruhban reserve.
The head of the Lebanese Environment Movement, Paul Abi Rashed, said that more than 80 percent of the Khandak al-Ruhban reserve was destroyed. Baabda residents had complained that Civil Defense was slow to respond to the fire, which could have been prevented from reaching the reserve, with several officials raising the alarm over the agency’s capabilities in handling such cases.
Forest fires, along with other natural and human threats, have been a major cause of the decline in forest cover in the country, according to the Association for Forests, Development and Conservation.
More than 35 percent of the forest cover in Lebanon has been deteriorated over the last 40 years, leaving just 13 percent of Lebanon forested, the association says.