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Firemen battle forest fire in Lebanon amid munitions

Latest update : 2008-07-22

Firemen battled a forest fire in Lebanon on Tuesday, amid exploding cluster bombs and landmines left over from the country's 1975-1990 civil war. The fire had broken out overnight and may have been started deliberately.

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.

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.

"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.

"At least eight landmines exploded and two of them were large bombs causing huge explosions," he added.

The official said the fire had been contained from most sides and they were close to containing the last section.

"It is a very large, steep, wooded area that is hard to get around and we can't send our men through due to the bombs," the official said.

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 destroyed several hectares (acres) of pines and oak trees during the night and the fire spread during the day.

The official suggested the blaze may 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 threatened.

Forest fires in 2007 devastated hundreds of hectares (acres) of woodland in Lebanon.

Date created : 2008-07-22