BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Sidon landfill blaze defies firefighting efforts

An emergency boats works to help contain the blaze at Sidon’s garbage heap. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

SIDON, Lebanon: Firefighters battled a massive landfill blaze in Sidon for a second day Friday, as large clouds of garbage smoke continued to choke the city’s streets.

Despite 10 fire trucks, two boats and a helicopter sent to fight the flames, firefighters struggled to put out the fire that burned along the coastal edge of the city’s sprawling landfill. By the end of the day Friday the trash still smoldered.

The fire erupted in Sidon’s landfill early Thursday morning, forcing the industrial sector of the southern city to shut down. Civil Defense Department officials said the blaze was so extensive it would take two days to extinguish.

The difficult positioning of the blaze by the coastal edge posed a challenge to firefighting teams. Some firefighters had to descend on ropes to get close to the blaze while a helicopter had to be called in because of the limited access to the flames and their size.

Efforts to fight the fire were set back further Friday after the pump aboard a boat brought in to spray sea water onto the fire failed. The malfunction was due to garbage from the dump.

After a brief respite for city residents when eastern winds pushed away the fire’s smoke, Sidon returned to a city of smog, suffocated by smoke that carried toxic fumes to the heart of the city.

Friday afternoon, the municipality called again for the assistance of Lebanese military helicopters to help put out the flames.

The landfill has been used as a site for the disposal of garbage for years and measures about 30 meters in height, sprawling into the sea and polluting nearby beaches with trash.

As the fourth fire in about a month, investigators have begun looking into the possibility of arson. The office of the city’s prosecutor began investigations in that regard after the request of Sidon MP Bahia Hariri.

All four blazes took place about a month after the Sidon municipality signed an agreement with the U.N. Development Program to reduce the effects of the landfill on the city.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 08, 2012, on page 2.

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