Middle East News
Suspicious fires destroy forests in northern Lebanon
Oct 24, 2007, 16:08 GMT
Ehden, Lebanon - Wild fires raged across vast areas of forest in north Lebanon as choppers from nearby Cyprus helped combat the flames threatening population centres.
Civil defence rescuers said no casualties have been reported in the fires that broke out Tuesday evening and developed early Wednesday across the dry land after a long summer.
Lebanese army helicopters and Cypriot choppers worked throughout the day to help combat the blaze spreading to populated areas in the Ehden region.
According to an eyewitness some residents of the Ehden region slept outside their homes because the fires were close to their homes.
Police blocked traffic along the Zghorta-Ehden highway, which penetrates the region's forests and olive groves to avoid civilian casualties.
'We are carrying out a double mission, on the one hand we combat the forest fires and, on the other, we try to prevent the blaze from reaching population centres,' a civil defence worker said.
He attributed the fires to the dry land after a hot summer.
But Interior Minister Hassan Sabaa pointed an accusing finger at arsonists.
'The big question is: how did these fires start late at night and in areas that are not linked to the road network,' Sabaa told Voice of Lebanon radio.
'The fires we think from initial reports are intentional,' Sabaa added.
'God is the best firefighter,' said Fadi Mouawad a resident of Ehden.
In the Muslim villages of north Lebanon the elderly clergymen called for special 'rain prayers.'
Wild Fires have Swept across more than 6,000 acres of forest land earlier this month killing one person and injuring scores.
Italian planes were brought in the country to help put out the raging fires.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur