10/17/2019, 10.47
LEBANON
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Lebanon tackles wildfires: three victims, burning forests and solidarity

An environmental disaster with two faces: solidarity among citizens and the lack of readiness institutions. These are the worst fires since 2007; originating in the western mountains the fires surrounded urban centers, including Beirut, Tripoli and Sidon. The courage and altruism of women religious, students and parents of the Carmelite St. Joseph school in Mechref.

Beirut (AsiaNews / Agencies) - After 72 hours of fighting against the time and death of three people, the fire emergency caused by over one hundred different fires and fueled by the mass of hot air from the Mediterranean has been quelled.

 A disaster, according to several observers, which highlighted the two souls of the country: a ruling class unprepared to face the situation and today engaged in looking for a scapegoat and a population committed in every possible way to curbing the environmental disaster that destroyed dozens of square kilometers of forests.

The flames, the worst since 2007, have flared up in the western mountains of Lebanon, following a wave of heat and strong winds. Smoke also affected large urban centers such as the capital Beirut, Tripoli and Sidon, where the death of a fire brigade volunteer was reported. Two other forest guards died in the northwestern region of Latakia.

Another eight people were injured during fire extinguishing operations.

On the political side, the lack of coordination between the various ministries and services is at the basis of the malfunctioning of the chain of relief efforts, causing chaos and confusion, as confirmed by eyewitnesses.

In the last hours a heavy rainfall over several regions of the country has contributed to the extinguishing the numerous fires. Heat, hot winds and drought delayed operations. Among the most affected areas are Mechref and Debbiyé, in the Chouf district, in Denniyé in Northern Lebanon and in Kornet el-Hamra in the Metn. In these areas the fires spread to residential areas, destroying everything in their paths: houses, cars, electricity and telephone networks, shops and in some cases causing asphyxia and fainting.

For the experts, Lebanon has avoided the worst only thanks to the intervention of citizens and ordinary people, in a real general mobilization of an exceptional scope. The authorities have ordered the closure of schools and public departments. Some airplanes from Cyprus and the Palestinian Civil Defense Department, which usually operates inside the refugee camps, contributed to the extinguishing operations.

In this context of environmental disasters and devastation, stories of solidarity and courage also emerge: like that of the school of the Carmelite St. Joseph sisters in Mechref and its students and their parents, who refused to leave the institute and battled to it him from the flames. Everyone worked without interruption to extinguish the fires that broke out in the surrounding areas. The mother superior of the Carmelites, Sister Mariam-Nour, described to L’Orient-Le Jour (LOJ) “moments of trial and anguish” that were overcome “thanks to the solidarity shown by the students and their families”. These were apocalyptic days that "revealed to us what the human person is capable of, in terms of solidarity, generosity and dedication".

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