Syria: Historical wildfires kill two people and evacuate dozens
At least two people have been killed in forest fires burning through Syria and Lebanon, state media and officials said.
Syrian state television on Saturday morning broadcast scenes from the affected areas, where firefighters were working to extinguish the blazes.
Hundreds of hectares have burned in Syria’s Latakia, Tartus, and Homs provinces, while in Lebanon there have been more than 100 fires across the country, according to George Abu Musa, head of operations for the country’s civil defense.
Meanwhile, the health ministry said two people died in Latakia province on Friday as a result of the fires, and that 70 people in the area were taken to hospital suffering from breathing difficulties.
The Latakia fire brigade said they were “facing the largest series of fires seen in Latakia province in years”.
“For the first time in its history, Syria is witnessing this [large] number of fires in a single day,” Agriculture Minister Mohammed, Hassan Qatana said.
Official news agency SANA said fires burned homes in the coastal city of Banias in Tartus province, as well as in Qardahah, President Bashar al-Assad’s hometown in Latakia.
The news agency also quoted Bassem Douba, director of the forestry department in Latakia’s agricultural department, as saying that dozens of people were evacuated from their homes in several villages. Those people sought refuge in central Latakia and Tartus, he said.
The fires raging across Syria’s north, for the second time in months, were triggered by a heatwave that is unusual for this time of the year. They will likely cause considerable financial damage amid a deep economic crisis crippling the country.
Fires in Lebanon
In Lebanon, Abu Musa said they had mobilized 80 percent of personnel in most parts of the country.
“The situation is crazy, there are fires everywhere,” he said.
There have been no reports of casualties in Lebanon.
Abu Musa said most of the blazes had been extinguished but some were still burning in the mountainous Chouf region in the south, and in Akkar in the north.
Military helicopters were assisting firefighters in “hard-to-reach” areas, he added.
Abu Musa was unable to identify the cause of the blazes but said wind and high temperatures were helping them spread.
Last year, the government faced heavy criticism and accusations of ill-preparedness over its response to the 2019 blazes.
Days after Lebanon’s 2019 fires, mass protests broke out, triggered by proposed tax increases but quickly transforming into months-long demonstrations against the ruling class, deemed by protesters as inept and corrupt.