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World Lebanon battles wildfires for third straight day

12:57  30 july  2021
12:57  30 july  2021 Source:   afp.com

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Lebanon battled rapidly spreading wildfires for a third straight day Friday after they destroyed pine forests and threatened homes in northern areas.

a train on a track with smoke coming out of it: A Lebanese army helicopter drops water on a huge forest fire in the remote Akkar region of the north © JOSEPH EID A Lebanese army helicopter drops water on a huge forest fire in the remote Akkar region of the north a man walking up a hill: A man runs for cover as Lebanese firemen douse the flames in the forests of the Qubayyat area of Akkar © JOSEPH EID A man runs for cover as Lebanese firemen douse the flames in the forests of the Qubayyat area of Akkar

The blaze that started Wednesday in Lebanon's remote Akkar region "is spreading quickly over large areas," Agriculture Minister Abbas Mortada told AFP.

"It's spreading in all directions" fanned by high winds, Mortada said, adding that it had reached neighbouring Syria.

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The blaze, which has killed a 15-year-old volunteer firefighter and forced many people from their homes, gained pace overnight, according to the state-run National News Agency.

a person riding on top of a mountain: An army helicopter drops water in a bid to halt the fire's spread towards inhabited areas © JOSEPH EID An army helicopter drops water in a bid to halt the fire's spread towards inhabited areas

"The fires were out of control in the Jabal Akroum" region which straddles the border, NNA said.

"The area affected by the fire expanded significantly overnight... approaching orchards, farmland and some homes evacuated by their residents," it said.

a group of people standing next to a pile of hay: Volunteer firefighters tend to a colleague overcome by smoke. A 15-year-old volunteer was killed on Wednesday. © JOSEPH EID Volunteer firefighters tend to a colleague overcome by smoke. A 15-year-old volunteer was killed on Wednesday.

There is no official estimate of the size of the area affected.

The army deployed two helicopters early Friday to help douse the flames and more local volunteers joined the firefighting effort, NNA said.

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The Red Cross treated one volunteer with breathing difficulties, it added.

George Abou Moussa of Lebanon's civil defence said firefighting teams were working to contain the blaze.

"But there are areas we can't reach," he told AFP.

According to Mortada, the cash-strapped government is looking for outside help.

"The Lebanese government doesn't have access to many firefighting aircraft," and is pinning its hopes on assistance from Cyprus, Greece and neighbouring Syria, Mortada said.

For it's part, Syria said that it has managed to contain fires spreading from Lebanese territory.

"The fire that spread from Lebanese territory to the... Qusayr region has been completely extinguished," the state SANA news agency reported, citing the director of Syria's civil defence.

The government's failure to contain devastating wildfires in October 2019 was one of the triggers of an unprecedented, nationwide protest movement against perceived official incompetence and corruption.

ho/kir

Last month was worst July for global wildfires since 2003: report .
Researchers report that last month was the worst July for wildfires around the world since at least the year 2003. According to The Guardian, scientists from the European Union's Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service found that the fires released 343 megatonnes of carbon during the month – a measure that's approximately a fifth higher than the previous global peak for July in 2014. FIRES RAMPAGE THROUGH FORESTS IN GREECE; THOUSANDS EVACUATED "This stands out by a clear margin," Mark Parrington, a senior scientist for the service, told the outlet on Friday.

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