BEIRUT, Lebanon, October 16, 2019 (ENS) – Wildfires blazed across parts of Lebanon Tuesday after forcing some residents to abandon their homes in the middle of the night. Others were stuck in their houses as the flames tore through villages south of Beirut, officials said.
Environment minister Fadi Jreissati said at least one person has died in the fires, which are among the worst to hit Lebanon in years.
The Lebanese media are reporting that as a result of a sudden rise in temperatures together with strong hot easterly winds, 104 wildfires broke out in 24 hours throughout Lebanon.
A heatwave in the region coupled with strong winds intensified the fires that began Monday in Lebanese pine forests and in three provinces in neighboring Syria.
Wildfires broke out in cities in western and northwestern Syria – Homs, on the Orontes River; Tartus, on the Mediterranean coast; and Latakiya, Syria’s principal port city.
Lebanon has activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to assist in efforts to stop the spread of forest fires as at least 104 active fires were reported in the country before moderate rain this evening extinguished many of them.
In an immediate response, the European Union mobilized six firefighting planes: four of which are rescEU aircraft, two from Italy and two from Greece, as well as two planes sent from Cyprus via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
rescEU is the EU’s new strengthened response system to natural disasters, which includes a reserve of firefighting planes and helicopters. It is capable of immediate assistance in the EU and beyond. This is the second official deployment of rescEU assets after Greece last August.
“The EU stands in solidarity with Lebanon. I thank our Member States for their assistance and solidarity. Our thoughts are with the brave first responders and all those affected by these devastating fires” said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides who spoke and is in contact with the Minister of Interior of Lebanon, Ms Raya Haffar El-Hassan,to express EU’s solidarity and support.
The European Union’s 24/7 Emergency Response Coordination Centre has also activated the Copernicus emergency satellite mapping for the affected areas and is monitoring the situation. An EU Liaison Officer will be deployed to Lebanon to support the operation.