Photo: NNA

15-year-old dies as wildfires overtake Qobayat

A 15-year-old boy assisting firefighters has died as a result of massive wildfires that overtook the northern Lebanese village of Qobayat on Wednesday evening.

The wildfire raged in a forested area in the mountainous region of the village, reaching just outside some residential homes and endangering the lives of many.

Supported by 25 vehicles, 4 helicopters, and army units, the Civil Defense continues to work towards extinguishing the fire that has expanded into Syrian territories.

Firefighters, military helicopters and civilians all bonded together to battle the flames that continued to burn for several hours and spread to nearby areas. Several firefighter vehicles were dispatched from Beirut to aid the firefighters.

Qobayat is described as having large and beautiful forests containing a variety of oak, pine and cedar trees. The fire destroyed large parts of the forest.

The Lebanese Red Cross said it was forced to evacuate 17 people and transport 8 to the hospitals for emergency services as the fire grew larger. At least 25 residents were treated on the spot.

While people scrambled to put out the fire, Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab called for urgent assistance from neighboring Cyprus due to lack of facilities available to the Lebanese government that disabled it from putting out the fire sooner.

In 2019, massive wildfires devastated large areas of the Chouf region in Lebanon. A few days later, nationwide protests broke out to protest the deteriorating living conditions and the government’s mishandling of the fires, which were a direct cause of arbitrary government economic policies.

Cyprus itself had battled a three-day brush fire earlier this month, which was described as the most destructive blaze in the country’s 61-year history as an independent republic. 

Over the past two years, Lebanon’s increasingly warmer summers have caused wildfires to break out and endanger the surrounding areas. Much of Lebanon is a mountainous region, and tourists regularly flock to visit the country for these.

A fire also broke out at the Beirut port’s wheat and corn silos earlier today, but was extinguished by Lebanon’s Civil Defense.