BEIRUT, BAALBECK/ Lebanon: A large fire erupted Sunday in a Syrian refugee encampment in east Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, inflicting a number of casualties, a source told The Daily Star.
According to the source, Civil Defense firefighters, aided by paramedics of the Lebanese Red Cross and local volunteers, are currently battling the blaze at the camp, which is located in the Mindara quarter, between the towns of al-Marj and Qubb Elias.
Black smoke could be seen from afar. Hundreds of refugees evacuated the camp, heading for safer areas nearby.
Bekaa Governor Judge Antoine Suleiman said local authorities are actively working to support on-the-ground aid efforts.
No official tally for the injured has been issued yet, but local media reported that three refugees were hurt.
The Civil Defense said in a statement that 52 tents were burnt in the fire leaving one dead.
“Civil Defense members from different centers, supported by vehicles, managed at 5 p.m. today from controlling the huge fire that ignited inside Syrian refugee tents in a geographic area that is located between Qubb Elias and al-Marj,” the statement carried by the state-run National News Agency said. “52 tents out of around 80 tents caught fire.”
The statement added that a wheat field and a pickup truck also caught fire.
In details of the incident, the Civil Defense said that it received a call regarding the fire at 12:30 p.m.
“Civil defense personal instantly headed to the fire location, but couldn’t make it way because several cars belonging to the camp’s residents were parked in the middle of the road,” the statement said. “After the cars were removed, the personal made their way and worked on extinguishing the fire.”
There were explosions within the tents that are adjacent to each other, the statement said explaining that that was a result of fire caught by gas canisters.
“Some of the camps’ residents were inflicted several injuries and one person was died due to the fire. They were transferred to the area’s hospitals.”
Dana Sleiman, spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told The Daily Star that one child was confirmed dead and two other are in critical condition.
"A total of 102 tents were affected," Sleiman said. "Our team on the ground understands that the fire was started from a cooking stove but this is not confirmed."
Associated Press quoted the operational director of the Lebanese Red Cross as saying 100 tents were burned in the blaze.
UNHCR estimates that 1.01 million Syrian refugees live in Lebanon. Many live in rural areas, in makeshift camps.