Forest fire surges in north Lebanon and helicopters from Cyprus
A huge fire that destroyed thousands of trees in north Lebanon surged Wednesday and approached residential areas, prompting the government to consider asking for British assistance battling the blaze.
Cyprus agreed to send Lebanon a helicopter to assist the Army in putting out the fire.
Mayor of Sfira Hussein Harmoush said a halt in firefighting operations allowed the fire to flare Wednesday morning.
“The fire was contained and part of it was put out last night due to the efforts of Lebanese Army helicopters and residents after long hours and it has now reignited because the operation stopped at night,” Harmoush told The Daily Star.
The fire which erupted in the outskirts of the town of Sfira in Dinniyeh Tuesday was partially put out later that night.
Harmoush said that citizens have contacted him asking for help in preventing the fire from reaching their homes.
Harmoush called on the Lebanese Army for help, adding that he appointed a lawyer to file a complaint over the fire which residents believe may have been manmade.
The fire has reached such a large size that the government may ask British forces stationed in Cyprus to assist in putting out the blaze.
“The Lebanese government may request the support of helicopters from the British Forces in Cyprus to put out the fire, at this time the Civil Defense teams along with the Army’s helicopters continue their efforts,” caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s office said.
Mikati also followed up on the firefighting efforts with caretaker Interior Minister Marwan and Charbel.
Civil Defense said Wednesday that Cyprus agreed to send a helicopter to Beirut airport to assist the Army put out the fire.
“Upon the request of caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, Civil Defense Director General Raymond Khattar phoned Cyprus’ ambassador to Lebanon who is currently in his country and they agreed to send one helicopter out of two owned by the Cypriot government,” the organization said in a statement.
It also criticized local authorities for making statements against the Civil Defense, saying that some areas neglected to abide by the precautionary measures set by the institution to ease the consequences of seasonal forest fires.
“Some local authorities particularly those in areas most exposed to seasonal fires lack the slightest safety measures and therefore neglected to implement precautionary measures,” the statement said.
The same local authorities, which Civil Defense did not specify, refused to secure roads for fire trucks to reach forest fires and build water tanks near vulnerable areas.
“Areas which complied with our calls for precautionary measures in Akkar towns were able to put out the fire with less cost,” it added.
“Civil Defense is fulfilling its duties within the available means, backed by Army units on the ground and helicopters,” the agency said.
Source: The Daily Star