Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Breaking News: Brush Fires Ignited Across Lebanon

Fires burned throughout the night in Qobayat (Akkar - North) as firefighters struggled against windblown flames in a terrain near-inaccessible to landbased vehicles. Below are images from the night time and day time fires that burned through the area all day today,they were taken from a Facebook group dedicated to the region and this latest tragedy. Our hearts go out to the residents, civil defense officers, and Lebanese Army soldiers fighting the fires:

Update 2:
The Italian government has announced it is prepared to dispatch 5 firefighting planes to Lebanon to aid in the fight against a series of brush fires striking the country throughout the day. The planes could arrive in Lebanon as early as tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the FPM website declared that Civil Defense forces have up to 80% of fires contained and that those proving most difficult lie areas inaccessible by fire engines in the Qobayet (Akkar - North) region of the country.

A man inspects a house affected by a forest fire in Deir al-Qamar village, southeast of Beirut October 2, 2007. (Reuters/Ali Hashisho)

Update 1:

Lebanon's Interior Minister has reportedly requested aid from the Italian government in battling the fires raging through the country. Reports also indicate that contacts are being undertaken through the UNIFIL force deployed in the south of the country for the use of firefighting planes or helicopters - possibly stationed on UNIFIL naval vessels patrolling international waters off the coast of Lebanon.

Smoke billows from pine trees in the village of Deir al-Qamar in the Shouf mountains, east of Beirut (AFP/Ramzi Haidar).
Lebanese news services are reporting the ignition of numerous brush fires across the country, causing residents in some areas to flee and taking a high economic toll on farms and orchards across various regions.

Resident have been evacuated from the Deir Mar Abda village in Deir el Qamar (Chouf - Mount Lebanon). Fires near the town of Amchiit (Jbeil - Mount Lebanon), have been reportedly brought under control - damage in that area has been reported to over an area of 5000 meters squared.

Fires were also reported in the Dhour el Shoueir (Metn - Mount Lebanon), Rashmaya (Aley - Mount Lebanon), Dhour el Abadieh (Aley - Mount Lebanon), Kfar Amay (Aley - Mount Lebanon), Qobayat (Akkar - North), Beit Eddine (Chouf - Mount Lebanon), Al Aarbaniya (Metn - Mount Lebanon), Salima (Metn - Mount Lebanon), and Ain Jarmaq (Hasbaya - South)

The Lebanese Civil Defense directorate has requested that all private water tank trucks lend assistance to civil defense teams in the above mentioned regions. Army units hunting Syria-sponsored Fatah al Islam terrorists in the North have also joined the fight in the region of Qobayat (Akkar - North).

Lebanese chief of Civil Defense declared that there was no natural reason or cause for the pattern of fires witnessed, leading to speculation that they were intentionally set.

If the fires are found to have been caused by arson, it would define a new phase in the terrorist war being waged on the country. A terrorist war behind which Syria has been the primary mover.

According to the YaLibnan news website, the Lebanese government has contacted the government of Cyprus with an urgent request for firefighting helicopters.

The website also reported the hospitalization of 16 people with second-degree and at least 50 cases of smoke inhalation as a result of the fires in Deir al Qamar (Chouf - Mount Lebanon).
NOW Lebanon on today's raging fires:
...Richard Antoon, head of the Deir al-Qamar Red Cross center, told NOW Lebanon, “We got our first call at 4:20 a.m., but that wasn’t the first incident, as we know that at 1:30 fires were already set off.”
Within a few hours, over 200 firefighting posts in Lebanon had been mobilized to battle the blaze. By early afternoon, helicopters from nearby Cyprus had arrived to provide assistance. The army and security forces were mobilized to aid the firefighting effort and keep order. Local volunteers were also called in and assisted emergency crews in ensuring the fire stayed put out.
From the scorched hilltop of Deir al-Qamar, multiple independent fires were visible in the valley farmlands below. With hundreds of meters of untouched green fields and trees between the blazes, each appeared to be a separate incident. The usual reasons – villagers looking to make some cheap coal, young people getting into trouble, summer heat and sun sparking dry brush into flame – do not seem to fit.

There are far too many simultaneous fires – each of which sprung up in the evening of October 1 or the early morning of October 2, all across Lebanon – to be explained by carelessness or accident. Summer heat and the blazing sun aren’t credible culprits after sunset. Farmers wanting some cheap coal would not be setting fire to their olive groves. Even the possibility of an electrical fire seems remote, as the electricity had been shut off in the affected areas....

The Dailystar has the following take on the day's events in its Wednesday issue:

Civil Defense workers, backed by Lebanese Army helicopters, struggled to extinguish blazes in the North and in the Chouf Mountains east of Beirut.
About 85 fires started on Tuesday and more than a 100 on Monday, the head of the Lebanese Civil Defense, Brigadier General Darwish Hobeika, told The Daily Star.
An estimated 3,400,000 square meters of woodland were destroyed by fires in the Chouf region and around 200,000 square meters in the North.
Hobeika said almost 80 percent of fires had been contained but blazes still raged in the Northern town of Andaqt.
The blazes were worst in the area around Deir al-Qamar, a well-preserved Christian town in the Chouf that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
"Replanting the 2,000 hectares would cost $10 million. That amount alone would have been enough on an annual basis to fund the establishment of a national forest agency," Bou Ghanem said, adding that such an agency could have pooled resources and coordinated firefighting operations in a more centralized and effective manner.

He said Parliament in 2003 made a recommendation to the government to set up such an agency but the proposal was deemed unnecessary and shot down. Bou Ghanem said such an agency would have coordinated between local fire brigades, the Agriculture Ministry, the army and aerial fire-fighting assets.

Readers are invited to provide comments and UPDATES in the comments sections of this post!


  1. Orange Storange3:42 PM

    Residents in some areas of qobayat were evacuated

  2. Orange Storange3:53 PM

    I was told in qobayat the damage was to 50 km2 (does that sound true?).

  3. I should mention that if you consider the fact that some fires were started before dawn, while others later in the morning, and others even around noon...

    ...then the possibility of the fires being set by different agents on the ground gains in likelihood.

  4. Anonymous6:29 PM

    I think the Syrians did it...

  5. The FPM website has retracted the death claim on Ms Isabelle Bustani. She's currently receiving treatment at hospital.

    Sorry for any undue inconvenience.

  6. Jimmy7:14 PM

    The fires are having a very bad effect on farmers in the Koura area in the north where there is a lot of olive trees. There is a big new fire there that is very dangerous!

  7. Jimmy8:19 PM

    Fires in Mdeirej and Bologna :S

  8. Arabic Coffee Pot8:24 PM

    These new fires came after the Head of the Civil Defense said they were caused by arson and that they will be under control in a few hours!!

    Somebody is trying to create havoc - economic, environmental, psychological, whatever you want - and that somebody (*cough*bashar*cough*) is using his friends in Lebanon to do it!!

  9. acp has had too much caffeine, I guess. Hobeika said "it's a 95% possibility that the fires were caused intentionally by people trying to obtain charcoal". That's not arson, that's an industrial accident.

    Even so, that doesn't explain fires breaking out in many different places within the same 12-hr period, does it?

  10. Arabic Coffee Pot8:48 PM

    Maybe one fire was started by idiot charcoal gatherers, maybe two, maybe three...

    ...but somebody tried to take advantage of the situation and set 50 other fires!

    95%...more like 15%!!!

  11. acp, I don't disagree with your assessment. Do you think, then, that Hobeika may be saying what he is saying because he is misquoted, incompetent, under a threat if he speaks the truth, or some other reason entirely?

  12. Arabic Coffee Pot9:28 PM

    I don't know...maybe he thinks he's doing the country a favour by keeping the incident apolitical...even if it means lying!

    Maybe he has political affiliations but I dont know them.

  13. NOW Lebanon runs a story that pretty much states that arson HAS to be the cause, but people won't say so. Furthermore, it isn't just hilltop forests that are burning but farms, olive groves, and homes. Are these covered by insurance, or will the affected population be compelled to sell their land cheap to recoup costs? Or are the fires themselves some sort of form of compulsion?

  14. Jimmy1:08 AM

    whatever it is, i hope this time the security people will tell us what happened with all the details!

  15. Arabic Coffee Pot3:09 AM

    How retarded is Hobeika's statement anyway???? 185 fires started in 12 hours, and oh yeah....i am 95% sure it was an accident...

    give me a f&*^ing break!!!!!

    If we can't get answers about f'ing fires how can we get them about assassinations???

    We need a new president so that we can clean up the security services!!!!!!!!

  16. Anonymous3:13 AM

    Yes, that will solve our problems!!! While we're at it can we get a rainbows and sunshine happy story ending? The past has ever so much provided us with its abundant happy endings supply...


  17. Anonymous11:04 PM

    The weather the same.
    How many fires this week in Turky, Syria, Cyprus, Israel, Jordan. Give a break please

  18. Anonymous6:34 PM

    How about the possibility that this might be a preperation for millitary activities on that cleared land?

    I like the "Are these covered by insurance, or will the affected population be compelled to sell their land cheap to recoup costs?" question/theory.

    As for other arson arguments (economic, environmental, phsyc damages...)i believe this could have been done at a "better" time for diversion purposes mabe (nothing else that we know of happened during that time, mabe some weapons shipments, A FEW PLANTED BOMBS...nothing new anyway!!!)



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