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Wildfires continue to blaze in north, having razed ‘more than 100 hectares of land’

Wildfires continue to blaze in north, having razed ‘more than 100 hectares of land’

A Lebanese Army helicopter collects water to drop on a forest fire in the Qobeiyat area of northern Lebanon’s remote Akkar region. (Credit: Joseph Eid/AFP)

BEIRUT — For a third consecutive day, Lebanon’s firefighters and Civil Defense teams battled massive wildfires in northern Lebanon on Friday, with preliminary estimates showing that at least 100 hectares of land have been damaged by the flames.

“Based on the first estimations more than 100 hectares of land have been affected,” George Mitri, director of the land and natural resources program at Balamand University, told L’Orient Today.

“It is one of the most unprecedented fires we’ve had in the Akkar region and the fires are still going, so the extent of the burned areas may increase significantly in the coming days,” Mitri warned. Official reports on the size of the impacted area have yet to be released.

Sustained by strong winds and high summer temperatures, the fires, which started Wednesday in Lebanon’s Akkar region, had spread across the border to Syria by Thursday, and had killed a 15-year-old boy who was helping with firefighting efforts on Wednesday.

Head of operations at Lebanon’s Civil Defense George Abou Moussa described the wildfires as some of the worst to have hit the country.

Abou Moussa compared the wildfires to those in October 2019, which raged for more than two days, spreading from the Chouf to areas of Mount Lebanon and damaging at least 1,000 hectares of land in their wake. At the time, lack of equipment combined with unseasonably high temperatures and forceful winds made it difficult to contain the blazes.

Of this week’s battle against wildfires, Abou Moussa said, “We’ve been working in hell … it has been very difficult,” adding that firefighting teams have managed to control some of the fires.

At least 100 Civil Defense volunteers and 15 Civil Defense trucks are deployed on the ground helping to contain the blaze, according to Abou Moussa.

The Lebanese Army deployed two helicopters to help extinguish the flames early on Friday, the state-run National News Agency reported.

On Wednesday, caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab asked for urgent assistance from Cyprus. Abou Moussa said that helicopters from the nearby Mediterranean island have yet to arrive.

Mitri cautioned that the severity of wildfires could increase this year, especially in October and November, due to a hotter, longer and drier summer period.

“Fires of this magnitude rarely happen in July, so this is alarming. Large fires usually happen at the end of the dry season when the soil and vegetation are dry,” Mitri said.

The meteorology department at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport on Friday issued a forest fire warning in its weather report, saying that strong winds expected over the weekend will coincide with a rise in temperature.

Two weeks ago, the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute had warned of a high risk of forest fires due to a summer heatwave.


BEIRUT — For a third consecutive day, Lebanon’s firefighters and Civil Defense teams battled massive wildfires in northern Lebanon on Friday, with preliminary estimates showing that at least 100 hectares of land have been damaged by the flames.“Based on the first estimations more than 100 hectares of land have been affected,” George Mitri, director of the land and natural resources...