BEIRUT: Strong fires spread in different parts of Lebanon forcing some residents to flee their homes in the middle of the night as the flames reached residential areas in villages south of Beirut.
The fire seemed to have been briefly controlled on Monday night — before strongs winds fanned it again and came back bigger and wilder, said residents.
The huge forest fires have ripped through the Shouf mountains in the center of the country, the Lebanese civil defense said on Tuesday. A number of homes were gutted.
On Tuesday, 48 hours after the initial fire started, the fire was still raging.
Civil defence teams, Lebanese army helicopters and Beirut firefighting teams, and concerned residents have been working on extinguishing the fire, which threatened a number of houses in the town.
TV footage show residents evacuating to escape the raging inferno and as flames slowly creep near their homes.
Fire engines were overwhelmed by the flames in the Mount Lebanon region early on Tuesday, forcing the Interior Ministry to send riot police engines equipped with water cannons to help.
Two small aircraft were sent from the nearby Mediterranean island of Cyprus and are helping in putting out the fires.
A heat wave hitting the region and strong winds helped intensify the fires in pine forests around Lebanon and three provinces in neighboring Syria.
Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri said that if the fires turn out to be intentional those behind it "will pay a price."
(With inputs from AP)