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Unusual Heat Wave Sets Off Chaotic Chain Reaction

Wildfires, mass evacuations, and detonating land mines in the Middle East
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 10, 2020 8:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – Wildfires around the Middle East triggered by a heat wave hitting the region have killed two people, forced thousands of people to leave their homes, and detonated land mines along the Lebanon-Israel border, state media and officials said Saturday. The areas hit by the heat wave are Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and the Palestinian territories. The fires come amid an intense heat wave that's unusual for this time of the year. Wildfires spread across different areas of Israel and the West Bank for a second day Saturday, forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes. Israeli police said in a statement firefighters and police forces evacuated 5,000 residents from the city of Nof Hagalil in northern Israel. One of the hardest hit countries is war-torn Syria, where fires have killed two people and left dozens suffering from breathing problems over the past two days. The wildfires also burned wide areas of forests, mostly in the central province of Homs and the coastal province of Latakia.

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With firefighters overwhelmed, some residents helped them using primitive methods such as carrying water in buckets and pouring them on the fire. Latakia forestry official Bassem Douba was quoted by state news agency SANA as saying the number of fires reached 85. Also in Latakia province, fires in President Bashar al-Assad's hometown of Qardaha heavily damaged a building used as a storage for the state-owned tobacco company, part of which collapsed. 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 burned hundreds of pine trees and was getting close to homes when it was put under control. Along the border with Israel, fires were reported by Lebanon's state news agency in several villages, some of them triggering explosions of land mines placed along the heavily guarded front.

(Read more Middle East stories.)

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