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Syria struggles to contain wildfires as temperatures rise

July 18, 2023 at 4:46 pm

Smoke rises in a forested area during a fire that broke out after Assad regime’s attacks at Turkmen Mountain in Latakia, Syria on August 08, 2021 [Hüsam Abdullah – Anadolu Agency]

Fire-fighters were battling on Tuesday to extinguish multiple wildfires raging across the central Syrian countryside, local civil defence officials said, as temperatures reached 40 degrees Celsius in parts of the country, Reuters reports.

One fire broke out on public farmland in the central province of Hama, where fire-fighting teams were working to stop it spreading to surrounding areas, the head of the local forest protection centre, Amjad Hammad, told state news agency, SANA.

Another was raging across agricultural zones in the adjacent province of Homs, the head of Civil Defence there told SANA, saying civil defence teams were struggling to contain it due to “the mountainous and rugged terrain”.

Local outlet, Sham FM, reported that families from the village of Al-Marana had fled their homes as the wildfire approached.

The state news agency said temperatures were up to six degrees Celsius higher than average across the country on Tuesday, with active gusts and “very hot clouds”.

They hit 40C (104F) at the ancient city of Palmyra, in the province of Homs, and touched 39C in the capital, Damascus, where chronic power cuts have made it hard for families to stay cool.

One group of women in the capital charged tiny electric fans with portable batteries and regularly dunked their feet in cool water to make up for the lack of air conditioning.

“We move the couches here, pour water on the ground and direct the fans towards the ground, then we feel like we are in the Maldives,” said one of them, Mounira Wassouf.

Erratic rainfall and rising heat are among the suspected impacts of climate change already affecting Syria. They have shrunk Syria’s wheat crop in recent years, down some 75 per cent from around 4 million tonnes annually pre-war.

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