Lebanon Fires: State Fails to Fight Blaze, Demands Cypriot Help
By Staff, Agencies
A massive fire in the Lebanese Chouf village of Meshref spread to a nearby university and elementary school Monday, before the government called for Cypriot help to extinguish the blaze after failing to do it on its own.
Overnight winds caused the flames to break out again. The Civil Defense, Sidon Fire Department and the Lebanese Army worked to put out the fire in the early hours of Monday, after it reportedly broke out at around 4:30 a.m.
Difficulties were faced, owing to a number of landmines in the area, which date back to the Civil War, according to the regional head of the Civil Defense in Mount Lebanon Hussam Dahrouj.
“There is fear and caution in the firefighting because of the landmines,” Interior Minister Raya El Hassan told reporters during a visit to the affected area.
She further said that Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab was in contact with Cypriot officials, asking them to be prepared to help in the event that Lebanon requested it.
“They have more advanced firefighting capabilities than we do ... and we will use any helicopters or means to put out the fires, even if it will cost us [money],” Hassan added.
Cyprus answered the call at around 3:30 p.m. Beirut time, sending two aircraft to help.
At least one Lebanese Army helicopter was seen working to fight the blaze. More than 100 firefighters from 20 Civil Defense stations cooperated with the Army to extinguish the massive fire. The flames had surrounded some houses in the town, reaching the vicinity of nearby Rafik Hariri University.
Early Monday morning, pictures circulated on social media of sky-high smoke rising from the town.
Meanwhile, several blazes broke out in Akkar overnight and in the early hours of Monday morning.
Civil Defense was able to extinguish fires on the outskirts of Ain Tinta and Qobeiyat, according to the state-run National News Agency. However, a large fire continues to swallow up parts of an oak forest on the outskirts of Ain Yaacoub, aided by high temperatures and wind.