Lebanon continued to put out wildfires on Tuesday, which burned acres of land and destroyed dozens of homes in mountainous areas mainly in the Chouf region amid an unprecedented heatwave.
The National News Agency reported in the afternoon that "the fires in the Mechref area have been extinguished as a convoy of UNIFIL peacekeepers, vehicles and firefighting vehicles moved to Mazraat al-Dahr and al-Dibbiyeh to contribute to fighting the raging fires."
Firefighters and Civil Defense teams had been tackling several blazes in Mechref since Monday night.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri said foreign assistance was on its way. "We have made contacts with several states to send in helicopters capable of extinguishing the fire shall it renew at night,” he said.
Assistance from Italy and the European Union was expected in four hours, noted Hariri. He asserted that “investigation will be launched to determine the cause of fires.”
Interior Minister Raya al-Hassan earlier announced that aerial assistance from Cyprus to help extinguish wildfires raging since Monday in different mountainous Lebanese regions began early today.
She said air tankers from Cyprus dropped water over fires in Mechref.
"We have set up an operation room at the Grand Serail and another mobile one on the ground in Mechref to keep up with the latest developments,” said Hassan.
The fire started at night in Mechref. It soon extended to the Mount Lebanon towns of Debbiyeh, Baawarta, Damour, Naameh. It scorched wide areas in Lebanon’s western mountains by Tuesday morning.
Fires grew out of control overnight as people were evacuated from their homes.
As the fires raged overnight, al-Jadeed TV correspondent Halima Tabiaa burst into tears while live on TV, saying she could hear people scream for help inside their homes but no one could reach them. The correspondent's video has since gone viral on social media and foreign media outlets.
In Damour, a coastal village south of Beirut, more than a dozen charred cars were seen on the side of a road. Most of the homes nearby escaped the damage.
On Tuesday, Civil Defense firefighters said the fire was contained in Baawarta, Damour and Naameh.
Civil Defense Director General Raymond Khattar said in remarks to LBCI TV station: “For tens of years Lebanon has not witnessed anything similar.” He did not rule out the possibility of arson.
“Around 200 civil defense fire fighting vehicles have deployed in a bid to extinguish more than 104 fires blazing in different Lebanese areas in the last 24 hours,” he noted, saying five members suffered minor injuries.
Media reports meanwhile announced the death of a man who had taken part in the firefighting efforts in Chouf.
An unusual heatwave and strong winds helped intensify the fires in pine forests around several mountainous regions throwing people out of their homes in the middle of the night.
The National News Agency said another massive fire broke out at dawn in the Metn area of Kornet Hamra-Mazraat Yachouaa-Zikrit. Civil Defense firefighters and army helicopters embarked on dousing the fire, as people were told to evacuate.
Later on Tuesday, more blazes were reported in several areas of northern and southern Lebanon.
The heatwave is expected to subside on Wednesday.
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