Just a few weeks after the world woke up to the fires tearing through Brazil's Amazon rainforest, another series of tragic forest fires has broken out in Lebanon. This Monday, Oct. 14, hundreds of forest fires erupted in Lebanon's western mountains, and by Tuesday, the fires had seriously started to spread, reaching villages across Lebanon and also affecting neighboring country Syria.
To help put out the fires, neighboring nations have offered a helping hand to Lebanon, and luckily, rainfall came Tuesday evening, which also helped quell a lot of the fires, Al Jazeera reported. The fires are now under control, but by no means is Lebanon in the state it was before the fires erupted.
As reported by the BBC, Lebanon's Interior Minister Raya El Hassan said that the country's government had asked several countries to help put out the blazes. Early Tuesday morning, El Hassan tweeted photos of Cypriot helicopters flying over the forest to extinguish the fire. In addition to Cyprus, other countries who have offered "aerial support" include Jordan, Greece, France, Italy, Switzerland, the U.K., and Egypt, according to El Hassan.
Lebanon is also utilizing its own resources to calm the fires. According to the BBC, Lebanon sent out its fire engines to water down the fires, as well as its riot police, who launched water cannons at the fires. However, Lebanese citizens have been critical of their government during this tragedy, because a few years ago, Lebanon bought three aircraft meant to be used to put out fires, but the aircrafts have not been maintained or used due to lack of funds, per the AP.
So what caused these wildfires? The primary cause of the Brazilian forest fires were developers purposely setting fire to swaths of the Amazon rainforest to clear-cut land for cattle ranching (to produce beef and dairy). But in the case of the Lebanon fires, it seems less likely that these fires have been set intentionally.
According to the New York Times, a combination of a heatwave and strong winds is believed to be the culprit. And as you can imagine, there is a strong connection between the climate crisis and extreme heat. That said, should evidence that anyone intentionally set fires to the forest, Lebanon Prime Minister Saad Hariri said they "will pay a price," the AP reported.
That is actually a refreshing attitude from a nation's leader, when you consider how Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro felt about cattle ranchers setting the Amazon rainforest on fire. Not only was Bolsonaro not concerned about the fires, but he actually stated that he wants to develop and exploit the Amazon.
The fires have caused mayhem for many residents of Lebanon. According to the Washington Post, as the flames spread through villages Monday night, some people were trapped in their houses; others had to leave their homes in the middle of the night.
And unfortunately, the fires have reportedly caused several casualties, though the details are a bit murky. According to the BBC, one volunteer firefighter passed away in the Chouf region; and as Al Jazeera reported, one man who tried to battle the fire passed away from suffocation in the city of Aley, and a woman was run over by a firetruck in the city of Sidon. Additionally, as per Al Jazeera, the Lebanese Red Cross reportedly treated more than 70 people at just one temporary hospital in Damour as a result of the fires.