Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 25 October 2020

Syria's President Bashar Al Assad visits bushfire-striken Latakia

Syrian state media says rare public appearance by leader involved tour of areas heavily damaged by last week’s deadly blazes

Syrian President Bashar Al Assad (centre), wearing a mask to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, speaks with people during his visit to the coastal province of Latakia, Syria. AP
Syrian President Bashar Al Assad (centre), wearing a mask to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, speaks with people during his visit to the coastal province of Latakia, Syria. AP

Syrian President Bashar Al Assad visited the coastal province of Latakia in a rare public appearance to see damage caused by wildfires that last week killed three people, state media reported on Tuesday.

Mr Al Assad’s public visits to areas around Syria have been rare since the country’s civil war began in March 2011. The conflict has killed nearly 400,000 and displaced half of Syria’s population, including more than five million people who became refugees, mostly in neighbouring countries.

State news agency Sana said Mr Al Assad visited the village of Ballouran to inspect the damage and meet residents during a tour to areas that were affected by the fires, which were brought under control on Sunday.

Sana did not say if the visit took place on Tuesday or earlier.

The agency said Mr Al Assad was accompanied by the ministers of local administration and agriculture and he vowed to help residents replant the burnt areas.

Wildfires broke out in several Middle Eastern countries last week during a heatwave that was unusual for this time of the year.

Syria was particularly hard-hit. Three people were killed in the bushfires that also burned wide areas of forests, mostly in Latakia and central Homs province.

On Saturday, special prayers for rain were held in mosques around Syria in the hopes that the drought would be eased and fires put out.

In Mr Al Assad’s home town of Qardaha in Latakia province, fires damaged a building used as storage by the state-owned tobacco company. The structure suffered a partial collapse.

Updated: October 13, 2020 05:57 PM

Editor's Picks
THE DAILY NEWSLETTER
Sign up to our daily email