| 16 April 2024, Tuesday |

Wildfires rage in Lebanon despite warnings, lack of proper governance

Seasonal wildfires began raging across the pine forests of towns in the north, starting from Akkar’s al-Qatlabah on Wednesday and rapidly spread to Qoubaiyat, reaching the homes of local residents.

The fires continued ripping across the north overnight and into Thursday as wind speeds exacerbated the wildfires.

The fire has since been “largely contained,” said Antoine Daher, president of the environment council of Qoubaiyat, but there are some areas where the fire is still out of control, mainly “the areas with a rough surface and which are hardly reached,” Daher said.

Lebanon’s civil defense said that it had dispatched 420 members alongside 50 firetrucks. Another 17 ambulances were on the ground to provide medical assistance to the distressed residents and civil defense personnel.

A teenager has died while helping battle the flames, with another two local residents hospitalized.

Incompetent government

Although the cause of the fire is still unknown, Lebanon is no stranger to wildfires.

Fires that erupted in the summer of 2019 drew the ire of the Lebanese people as the government stood by and watched as state-owned helicopters stayed grounded.

At the time, a government official said there was no money in the state’s treasury to carry out the needed maintenance on the Sikorsky helicopters.

Days later, nationwide anti-government protests rocked the country, with hundreds of thousands of protesters demanding the government’s resignation.

Lebanon’s political elite, widely seen as corrupt and responsible for the country’s unprecedented crisis, seem to have ignored repeated warnings of wildfires – again – this year.

An online government platform meant to monitor and warn the potential for wildfires is available.

“Have [the Interior and Health Ministries] check it? What have they done based on the data?” Executive Director of the Samir Kassir Foundation Ayman Mhanna tweeted.

Lebanese politicians have also failed to address the growing climate change concerns.

Aubin Gildas Kombila, a doctor in geography at the University of Pau and the Pays de l’Adour (UPPA) explained that climate change increases the intensity and the frequency of wildfires as drier and warmer conditions make lands easily combustible.

Kombila underlined the need to develop a well-rounded wildfire and forest management plan anticipating changes in weather conditions.

  • alarabiya