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WILDFIRES

Firefighters, residents battle blazes for the second day in north Lebanon

Firefighters, residents battle blazes for the second day in north Lebanon

An army helicopter drops water on a forest fire in the Qobeiyat area of Akkar on Thursday. (Credit: Joseph Eid/AFP)

BEIRUT — Wildfires raged for a second day in northern Lebanon on Thursday, spreading to Hermel and the border with Syria as firefighters and local residents redoubled efforts to contain the devastation.

The army deployed four helicopters to douse the flames with water. They were joined by 25 Civil Defense vehicles, 18 Red Cross ambulances and uncounted teams of local volunteers. Meanwhile, Syria’s civil defense organization and helicopters mobilized to fight the fire along the border.

The fires have claimed at least one life, that of 15-year-old local Amin Melhem, who died while fighting the blaze on Wednesday. Three members of Civil Defense, which is a 90-percent volunteer force, have reportedly been injured.

As of Thursday afternoon, the fire had been partially brought under control in the area of Qobeiyat and was continuing to burn in pockets across five nearby towns. Separate blazes in Dawra “risk no longer being controlled,” our sister publication, L’Orient Le Jour, reported, while yet others in Beino, which was ravaged by fires yesterday as well, are “no longer under control,” according to the state-run National News Agency. Lebanese authorities have contacted Cyprus to request support from firefighting airplanes.

Lebanon is no stranger to wildfires. Climate change is expected to increase the number of summer days above 35 degrees and the number of consecutive days without precipitation, damaging the health of Lebanon’s forests and increasing the risk of fires. The past 15 years have witnessed an increase in both the number and severity of forest fires, according to the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy at the American University of Beirut.

Two weeks ago, the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute warned of the “very high” potential of forest fires owing to the ongoing heat wave. Four hundred and twenty-one municipalities were at a high or very high risk of forest fires on Thursday, according to data from the National Council for Scientific Research. The district with the largest number of at-risk municipalities is Akkar.

In October 2019, devastating wildfires across portions of Mount Lebanon, and an inept government response, were among the factors contributing to unprecedented nationwide protests against the government.


BEIRUT — Wildfires raged for a second day in northern Lebanon on Thursday, spreading to Hermel and the border with Syria as firefighters and local residents redoubled efforts to contain the devastation.The army deployed four helicopters to douse the flames with water. They were joined by 25 Civil Defense vehicles, 18 Red Cross ambulances and uncounted teams of local volunteers. Meanwhile,...