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Wildfires blaze through Lebanon while emergency aircraft remain grounded

Three Lebanese firefighting helicopters have been out of commission for years and unable to respond to raging forest fires
Forest fires have broken out across Lebanon (Lebanese Civil Defence)

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has ordered an investigation into why some of the country's firefighting aircraft have been unable to respond during two days of forest fires that have broken out in Lebanon and parts of western Syria. 

Three helicopters have reportedly been out of commission for several years because replacement parts were not bought. 

At least 103 forest fires have broken out in Lebanon in recent days, according to the official National News Agency, with the Chouf mountains area south of Beirut being particularly affected. 

"President Aoun has requested an investigation into the reasons that led to the Sikorsky rescue and firefighting aircraft not working for years and to determine responsibility," the Lebanese president's office tweeted. 

Aoun also called for the parts for the three helicopters to be quickly secured. 

استمرار عمليات الاطفاء لإخماد الحريق الذي شب في كفرمتى-المشرف-بعورته-دقون وسط ظروف مناخية قاهرة.

Posted by ‎المديرية العامة للدفاع المدني اللبناني‎ on Monday, October 14, 2019

A video from the Lebanese Civil Defence of firefighters extinguishing forest fires

Cyprus announced on Monday that it was sending two firefighting aircraft to support Lebanon in putting out the fires. 

Syria's state news agency SANA reported that dozens of fires in western Syria had been brought under control by Tuesday. 

A recent heatwave is thought to have contributed to the fires. 

The Lebanese Red Cross said 18 people had been hospitalised since the fires began over the weekend. 

"The important thing is for us to know how this began," said Prime Minister Saad Hariri after a crisis meeting on Tuesday. "We must have a clear investigation.

"The important thing is there are no human losses."