Forest fires in Syria and neighbouring Lebanon have killed two people and burned swathes of land since Thursday, state media and officials said.
Syrian state television on Saturday morning broadcast scenes from the affected areas, where firefighters were working to extinguish the blazes.
It said hundreds of hectares had burned in the countryside of Syria’s coastal Latakia and Tartus provinces, and in the central Homs province.
The health ministry said two people died in Latakia province on Friday as a result of the fires, and that 70 people in the area were taken to hospital suffering breathing difficulties.
Dozens of fires were burning, including “45 in Latakia and 33 in Tartus”, Syria’s Agriculture Minister Mohammed Hassan Qatana told a radio station on Friday.
The Latakia fire brigade said they were “facing the largest series of fires seen in Latakia province in years”.
Official news agency SANA said fire burned homes in Banias, in Tartus province.
Syria too saw blazes in Latakia, Tartus and Homs in mid-October last year, state media reported at the time.
Intense wildfires in Syria, Latakia, are out of control, and the very hot air mass makes extinguishing them impossible. The smoke cloud has also reached Cyprus! Thanks to Mustafa Shikh Ibraheem for the report – posted with permission. pic.twitter.com/HjNHkCxjZ5— severe-weather.EU (@severeweatherEU) October 9, 2020
In neighbouring Lebanon, there have been more than 100 fires across the country since Thursday, according to George Abu Musa, head of operations for the country’s civil defence.
“The situation is crazy, there are fires everywhere,” Abu Musa told AFP.
“We have mobilised 80 percent of our personnel and almost all our centres in Lebanon,” he said.
More imagery of destructive wildfires in Syria yesterday, Oct 9th. Fatalities and severe damage have been reported. Smoke cloud reached Cyprus as well. Thanks to Hade AL-hasan for the report – posted with permission. pic.twitter.com/6lnG0Aduj0— severe-weather.EU (@severeweatherEU) October 10, 2020
He said most of the blazes had been extinguished but some were still burning in the mountainous Chouf region in the south, and in Akkar in the north.
Military helicopters were assisting firefighters in “hard-to-reach” areas, he added.
Abu Musa was unable to identify the cause of the blazes, but said wind and high temperatures were helping them spread.
Dozens of fires hit Lebanon in mid-October last year, amid unusually high temperatures and strong winds.
Israel on fire pic.twitter.com/VwcUVJlW5h— Eddy de Santi (@eddydesanti) October 10, 2020
The government faced heavy criticism and accusations of ill-preparedness over its response to the 2019 blazes.
Days after Lebanon’s 2019 fires, mass protests broke out, triggered by proposed tax hikes but quickly transforming into months-long demonstrations against the ruling class, deemed by protesters as inept and corrupt.
Some parts of Turkey and Israel are in fire currently— Lika (@imnotlika) October 10, 2020
Coincidence? I don’t think so pic.twitter.com/G7us3nXX6X
On Friday, authorities reported several fires across northern and central Israel and the occupied West Bank as temperatures soared, forcing thousands to evacuate.
Same in southern Turkey…
Southern Turkey and parts of Syria are on fire right now.— Scott From Scotland (@ScottDuncanWX) October 9, 2020
This is footage from the forests of Turkish Hatay province today.
The recent exceptional heatwave and dry conditions have played a crucial role in exacerbating the situation.pic.twitter.com/C5r9EHvCh4
PKK terrorists? Well this is what they say…
The terrorists of PKK burn forests down in Turkey. They had been sent to Armenia by France in order to fight against Azerbaijan. These rascals name themselves as “sons of fire” and this is a good example for revolutionary violence pic.twitter.com/swuzYFbevP— Erem Şentürk (@EremSenturk) October 10, 2020