By Nigel Ash
Tripoli 7 April 2013:
Italian firefighting planes flew in today to help douse a forest fire that threatened to engulf . . .[restrict]an extensive wooded area of the Jebel Akhdar mountains.
Local fire crews including units from Al Bayda and Dernah had struggled to control the blaze when it broke out near Ra’s Al Hilal on Saturday. Locals said that the equipment on the appliances had not proved adequate in dealing with the forest fire. Fanned by a strong ghibli, smoke and embers from the inferno were being blown toward Al Bayda.
Help was requested from the Italian government to stop the fire from raging out of control. Very rapidly the Prime Minister’s office in Rome, along with the Civil Protection Department and the Italian foreign ministry approved the despatch of two firefighting planes. Italian oil company Eni agreed to meet part of the cost of the operation.
According to the Italian embassy in Tripoli, the two Canadair CL0415 type aircraft scooped up sea water which they dumped, along with fire retardant chemicals onto the burning woodland.
An embassy spokesman told the Libya Herald this evening: “ Capt. Antonio Urbano and Capt. Massimo Aleotti performed 10 overflights each, downloading an average of 6,000 litres per trip of marine water and fire extinguisher liquids.”
This evening it appeared that the fire was extinguished leaving some 100 hectares of woodland completely devastated. Tired firefighters were being joined by locals to watch that no more fires flared up. It is understood that one of the Italian planes will return tomorrow to ensure that the blaze is really and truly out. There are no reports of any injuries or damage to buildings. [/restrict]