Residents flee Lebanon forest fire north of Beirut


Residents of a Lebanese village began to flee on Sunday as a forest fire which has raged out of control for the past week threatened to engulf their homes.

President Michel Suleiman traveled to the village of Fatri, 45 kilometres (30 miles) north of Beirut to inspect efforts to control the blaze, which has devastated 150,000 square metres (1.6 million square feet) of woodland.

Municipal council leader Imad Daou told AFP that rough terrain hampered the firefighting effort while high winds had fanned the flames. “Trees more than 100 years old, olive groves and pines have been lost,” he said.

The blaze has claimed no lives so far but six civil defense personnel have suffered minor injuries while tackling it.

A civil defense official said the emergency services were having to combat “numerous fires” in different parts of the country fueled by tinderbox conditions.

According to the meteorological service, Lebanon has recorded just 51.2 millimetres (two inches) of rain since September, compared with 214.8 millimetres in the same period of last year.

Lebanon’s southern neighbor Israel, affected by the same extended summertime conditions and drought, has been battling a deadly forest fire since last Thursday. AFP



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