Residents Flee Lebanon Bushfire

Firefighters in Lebanon are battling a forest blaze that has raged out of control for the past week.

As an international flotilla of firefighting planes in neighbouring Israel finally brought the largest fire in that nation’s history under control after a four-day battle, 42 separate blazes were reported in Lebanon, four of them large.

Frightened villagers north of Beirut fled as flames threatened to engulf their homes.

President Michel Sleiman travelled to the village of Fatri, 45 kilometres north of Beirut to inspect efforts to control the blaze, which has devastated 150,000 square metres of woodland.

Municipal council leader Imad Daou said rough terrain hampered the firefighting effort while high winds had fanned the flames.

“Trees more than 100 years old, olive groves and pines have been lost,” he said.

The blaze has claimed no lives, but six civil defence personnel have suffered minor injuries. Frightened villagers began to flee from their homes on Sunday (local time).

Lebanese army helicopters have tried to douse the flames from the air, while firefighters battled the blaze on the ground.

A civil defence official said the emergency services were fighting “numerous fires” fuelled by tinderbox conditions in different parts of the country.

“We need three times more capacity to face these fires,” interior minister Ziad Baroud told reporters.

According to the meteorological service, Lebanon has recorded just 51.2 millimetres of rain since September, compared with 214.8 millimetres in the same period last year.

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