Forest fires have destroyed large areas of woodland across Lebanon, killing one woman and injuring dozens.Meanwhile, the Dailystar writes:
More than 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres) of forest have been lost. Officials have described the fires as the worst in a decade.
"The direct cause [of the fires] is negligence, not criminal," Mr Bou Ghanem [head of the Association for Forest Development and Conservation] told the AFP news agency. "Negligence in the sense that people start small fires to clear their land or something like that."
He warned that the forests destroyed in the fires would not regenerate naturally.
"A pine forest that burns down twice within a period of 10 years cannot produce any more cones and we lose these forests forever and we have quite big forests like that that were destroyed yesterday," Mr Bou Ghanem told AFP.
Forest fires raging in the Chouf Mountains left three soldiers and a firefighter injured on Tuesday, prompting Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud to declare the village of Dibbiyeh a "disaster area." Students from the Arab University campus in Dibbiyeh were evacuated as the blaze raged out of control, and witnesses reported that dozens of families were fleeing the area as the military and the fire service battled the flames.
The fire was believed to have started on Monday, but its location on steep mountainsides had prevented the authorities from bringing the blaze under control. By late Tuesday, 24 firetrucks and three helicopters had largely extinguished the blaze, which consumed an estimated 500 hectares of land.
Baroud said that the Civil Defense teams had faced difficulties extinguishing the flames because of a lack of suitably trained firefighting personnel and limited resources. Officials had also warned that unexploded ordnance left in the area was posing an extra threat to the firefighters.
Last October Lebanon was struck by the worst forest fires in decades, with more than 4,000 hectares of woodland destroyed. Officials are keen to avoid a repeat this year, but experts have warned that global warming has left Lebanon more vulnerable to forest fires, noting that fires were raging as early as April this year - a full three months earlier than the traditional "season."
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, about 1,200 hectares of forests are burned in the fires annually.
Forest fires in Lebanon are particularly devastating because the woodland is not well adapted to regenerating after being burned, meaning that ancient forests can be destroyed forever. Currently, forests cover about 13 percent of Lebanese territory, 40 percent less than in 1968.
To combat the problem, the Interior Ministry last month threw its weight behind a campaign to raise $25 million needed to buy state-of-the-art firefighting equipment, including helicopters and trucks. Meanwhile the Environment Ministry has stressed the importance of replanting areas where forests have been lost. - With AFP