Wildfires around the Middle East triggered by a heatwave hitting the region killed two people in Syria, forced thousands of people to leave their homes and detonated landmines along the Lebanon-Israel border, state media and officials said Saturday.
Fires were reported by Lebanon’s state news agency in several villages along the border, with some of them triggering explosions of land mines placed along the heavily guarded front.
There were no reports of injuries.
The areas hit by the heatwave are Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories. The fires come amid an intense heatwave that is unusual for this time of the year.
In Lebanon, firefighters backed by army helicopters fought fires in the country’s north, center and south. A big fire in the southern village of Bater burnt hundreds of pine trees and was getting close to homes when it was put under control.
Wildfires spread across different areas of Israel and the West Bank Friday and into Saturday, forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes.
One of the hardest-hit countries was war-torn Syria where fires have killed two people and left dozens suffering from breathing problems over the past two days. The wildfires also burnt wide areas of forests, mostly in the central province of Homs and the coastal province of Latakia.
With firefighters overwhelmed, some residents helped them using primitive methods such as carrying water in buckets and pouring them on the fire.
Director of the Forestry Department in Latakia Agricultural Department, Bassem Douba, was quoted as saying by state news agency SANA that the number of fires reached 85 in different sites.
Also in Latakia province, fires in President Bashar Assad’s hometown of Qardaha heavily damaged a building used as a storage for the state-owned tobacco company, part of which collapsed.