In aging cars and without protective gear, Lebanese rescue personnel race to the scene of Israeli bombardments as the crisis-ridden nation tries to get ready for potential conflict.
Lebanon is ill-prepared for another tragedy after a brutal, four-year economic collapse that was mostly attributed to the ruling class. Volunteers and municipal officials are frantically trying to fill the void with what little money they have.
Anis Abla, the leader of civil defense in the Marjayoun district of south Lebanon, stated that his 37-person, mostly volunteer fire and rescue squad cannot afford helmets or flak jackets.
“We are the first line of defense, yet we have no equipment to protect ourselves,” Abla told AFP from his office, a container located less than 10 kilometers (six miles) from the Israeli border.
“If war erupts, we might not be able to secure enough water for our trucks or other basics like food,” he added.
Since Hamas carried out an unprecedented attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7, Israel has exchanged cross-border fire with the Iran-backed Hezbollah and allied Palestinian factions in Lebanon’s south, stoking fears of a regional spillover.
Israeli bombings have caused fires near the border, an area of trees and olive groves.
Hussein Fakih, head of civil defense for the southern Nabatiyeh region including Marjayoun, said his personnel had limited access even to water for fire trucks, as Lebanon’s chronic power cuts cripple pumping systems.
The newest vehicle is about 30 years old, said Fakih, who is responsible for 21 emergency centers.
He said fire trucks regularly break down and that “even if we get a puncture, we can’t get another tire”.
“If the situation worsens… We will not be able to carry out all our tasks.”