22 July 2008

Forest fire rages amid munitions in Lebanon

July 22nd - BEIRUT (AFP) - Firemen battled a forest fire in Lebanon on Tuesday, amid exploding cluster bombs and the danger of mines left over from the country's 1975-1990 civil war, a civil defence official told AFP."Firefighters are having a hard time extinguishing the flames because the region is full of Israeli cluster bombs and landmines left over from the 1975-1990 civil war which are exploding and making the situation worse," said the official who asked not to be named.Flames swept near the summer resort town of Aley, east of Beirut, after breaking out overnight in the mountainous region of Bmikin, between Souk el-Gharb and Aley.The region where the fire broke out used to be a front-line during the war.Emergency crews and an army helicopter were fighting the fire. Flames had destroyed several hectares (acres) of pines and oak trees by 4am (0100 GMT) and by mid-morning had spread, the official said, suggesting the fire might have been set deliberately."We have a witness who saw someone throw something out of a car near the woods," he said, adding that no homes were in the area of the blaze.Forest fires in 2007 devastated hundreds of hectares (acres) of woodland in Lebanon.