Wildfire In Northern Lebanon Scorches Forest, 1 Person Dead

BEIRUT (AP) — A wildfire raged in a forested area of mountainous northern Lebanon on Wednesday, reaching just outside some residential homes and killing a 15-year old who was helping firefighters put out the blaze, the civil defense and state news agency said.

Firefighters, military helicopters and civilians battled the wildfire near the village of Qobayat in Akkar province that burned for hours and spread to nearby areas, the civil defense said.

Late in the day, the fire was still advancing toward houses at the edge of the mountainous area. Lebanon's Red Cross said it evacuated 17 people and transported eight people to hospitals for emergency services. At least 25 residents were treated on the spot, the Red Cross said.

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab called for urgent assistance from neighboring Cyprus. A three-day brush fire there earlier this month was described as the most destructive blaze in the country’s 61-year history as an independent republic.

The Qobayat area is described by many as having one of the most beautiful forests in Lebanon, with oak, pine and cedar trees.

Lebanon’s civil defense said the fire destroyed large parts of the forest. The state-owned National News Agency said the fire spread over seven kilometers (four miles) and was two kilometers (1.2 miles) across, claiming tens of thousands of pine trees so far.

One young man who was helping to fight the fire was injured and died, the civil defense said. The NNA later said he was 15. Firefighting vehicles were dispatched from the capital, Beirut.

Lebanon suffered devastating wildfires in October 2019 that lasted for more than two days and spread from the mountains in Chouf to just outside the capital Beirut. Lack of equipment and preparedness combined with high temperatures and gusty winds caused the fire to rage and destroy acres of forest.

The government's handling of the fires was among the factors that fueled nationwide protests later that month, which were originally called because of arbitrary government economic policies.