BFF-40 Two dead in Lebanon Syrian refugee camp fire

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LEBANON-SYRIA-CONFLICT-REFUGEES-FIRE

Two dead in Lebanon Syrian refugee camp fire

YAMMOUNEH, Lebanon, Dec 3, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – A fire ripped through a refugee
camp in Lebanon on Monday killing two Syrians, including a boy, and burning
nearly two dozen tents, a local official said.

Around 1.5 million Syrians have sought shelter in Lebanon from the seven-
year civil war raging next door, with many living in camps in the Bekaa
Valley in the east of the country.

The fire in the northeastern town of Yammouneh early Monday “killed a 46-
year-old man as well as a boy aged seven or eight”, deputy mayor Hussein
Shreif said.

It “burnt down 23 of 70 tents in the camp,” he told AFP, adding it was not
immediately clear what started the fire.

But after the initial spark, “the explosion of a fuel container in one of
the tents caused the fire to spread,” he said. Security forces and a UN team
were dispatched to the area of the camp, he said.

One of the refugees told AFP: “At 3:00 am, we heard screaming. Then we saw
flames (spreading) and we couldn’t put them out.”

An AFP photographer saw people milling amid the cinders of former tents,
nothing remaining of them but a few metal poles.

Near a field of red earth, a young girl in a green hoodie picked through a
pile of clothes that had survived the fire.

Lebanon’s national news agency, NNA, said “civil defence put out the fire
with difficulty due to the low visibility, thick fog and smoke.”

Fires have often erupted in Syrian refugee camps, where many depend on
international aid for their survival.

Security forces also regularly sweep down on the informal settlements.

On Wednesday, further to the east in the area of Arsal, the army detained
hundreds of Syrians, including over no or expired identity documents.

Since the start of the year, thousands of Syrians have gone home to their
country, according to an AFP tally, in returns coordinated between the
authorities in Beirut and Damascus.

Lebanese authorities waive late fines for those whose residency papers
have expired if they agree to return to Syria.

The Syrian conflict has killed more than 360,000 people and forced
millions from their homes since it started with the brutal repression of
anti-government protests in 2011.

BSS/AFP/RY/1812 hrs