Forest fires rage in Lebanon

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DEIR AL-QAMAR, Lebanon, Oct 2 (Reuters) Forest fires blazed in several areas of Lebanon today, including the ancient town of Deir al-Qamar southeast of Beirut.

''Most of Deir al-Qamar is engulfed in thick, black smoke.

There's not one wooded area left. Some villas are ablaze, cars are burnt, the phone and electricity lines are burnt,'' resident Joseph al-Itr told Reuters.

Television footage showed several burned-out cars on roads in the Shouf region and smoke rising from charred woodland.

There were no immediate reports of casualties. Local media outlets said some residents had been evacuated from their homes.

A police statement said at least 10 fires had erupted since yesterday and civil defence forces were having difficulty reaching some of them. It was unclear how the fires had started.

Big fires were also reported in the northern region of Akkar and several others in the Metn area northeast of Beirut.

The town's deputy governor described the Deir al-Qamar fires as ''an environmental disaster''.

The army was using helicopters to try to douse the blazes but was finding it hard to reach some areas because of heavy winds.

REUTERS ARB HS1549

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