Syrian farmers in compensation plea after wildfire devastation

Farmers need to rebuild after eight-day inferno leads to loss of land and livestock

Wildfires put out after eight days in northern Latakia

Wildfires put out after eight days in northern Latakia
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“It took only a few minutes for the fire to reach our home," Mahran, a 37-year-old farmer in the village of Beit Swahili in Latakia told The National.

"Strong winds and the widespread fires made it very difficult for the firefighters and the trucks to access the area...but 10 or 15 minutes later, they reached our village and controlled the blazes,” he said.

He is one of many farmers affected by the devastation the wildfire caused when it spread across large stretches of the northern countryside of Latakia in Syria, burning scorching farmland and burning down homes.

Now, he hopes the government will compensate residents for the damage, so they can rebuild their lives after the devastating losses suffered.

Large areas were destroyed in the villages of Hammam, Beit Swahili, Solas, Khirbat Solas, Bastinjiq, Nahr Al Aswad, Ain Al Zarqa, Al Tariqiyah and Al Zahraa in the province.

Firefighters from across the country worked around the clock for eight days to put out the flames that engulfed the coastal areas.

Helicopters were also sent to help control the spread of fires and cool down extinguished areas to prevent further outbreaks, amid extreme heat and strong winds.

“Unfortunately, I have lost nearly five acres [two hectares] of land in the wildfires," Nuha Hammod, a 58-year-old mother of five told The National.

“When the fire started, I was at home with my children. I heard the noise outside. I looked out and saw the flames approaching like a volcano. We couldn’t see anything – it all turned black from the thick, black smoke and the huge fire.”

Like other countries around the Mediterranean, Syria was hit hard by wildfires at the end of last month, supercharged by strong winds and soaring temperatures.

“We ran into the forest,” said Ms Hammod. "It was just a short few minutes before the blazes spread all over the place; we were surrounded by fire.

"The whole village of Beit Swahili was burning. We were screaming for help."

Amer Hilal, governor of Latakia, has ordered the formation of a committee to assess the damage to land, farming equipment and machinery, livestock, residential properties and agricultural buildings.

Another mother who was affected by the fires – and wished to remain anonymous – told The National the fire spread within minutes because of the wind.

“I told the children to escape while I stayed behind at home. I couldn’t find my husband, and I refused to leave the house without him.

"An hour later I was told he was safe."

Bassem Douba, director of agriculture and agrarian reform in Latakia, confirmed that several fires had also engulfed Wadi Rabia, in the north of Latakia bordering areas outside the Syrian government's control.

The fires were separate to the ones in the north-western coastal areas of Mashqita, in Latakia, but started around the same time.

Extreme temperatures have been affecting many countries around the Mediterranean in the past few weeks.

Rising heat as well as erratic rainfall have been affecting Syria in recent years, the country's wheat crop having shrunk by about 75 per cent from the annual four million tonnes from before the civil war.

Temperatures have reached 40°C in parts of the country in the past month.

Updated: August 07, 2023, 3:30 PM