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Wildfires leave landscapes of charred trees, burnt soil in Syria

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LATAKIA, Syria, Oct. 12 (Net) -- Charred trees and burnt soil filled the horizon while white smoke filled the air, telling the story of wildfires that engulfed areas in Syria over the past 48 hours, turning the once picture-perfect sceneries into sad stories of dead crops.
Farmers and families are in shock over the losses they have endured over the past couple of days as the fire devoured their crops and harvests and reached their homes in the countryside regions of Latakia and Tartous provinces in northwestern Syria as well as in the countryside of the central province of Homs.
The worst-hit of all was the olive crops, which were scheduled to be cultivated next month for farmers to extract the famous Syrian olive oil.
Farmers have been waiting an entire year for the olive crops to be cultivated but the crops went up in the flames of the strong fire that also forced people out of their homes in some villages.
A total of 156 fires have raged across the forests and agricultural areas since Friday. Four people were killed by the fires and over 80 others suffered suffocation.
Fire crews and the people of the burnt areas exerted tremendous efforts to put out the fire, a difficult task given the mountainous nature of the burnt areas.
On Sunday, concerned authorities declared that the wildfires have been finally extinguished.
But for the farmers, the fire is still eating them from inside out after losing their crops.
Ahmad Muhammad, a 48-year-old farmer from the town of Um al-Toyour in the countryside of Latakia, told Xinhua that the fire damaged everything in its way and reached the houses of the people.
He said the people were dousing buckets of water to put out the fire.
"Everything has been damaged, everything has been burnt. Around the houses and elsewhere in Um al-Toyour everything has been burnt," he said, turning his head sideways in shock.
"This is the first time we witness such a calamity. We started dousing water from buckets to put out the fire. Hay and fodder brans have also been burnt," he continued.
For his side, Kanan Touba, another 50-year-old farmer from Sunbleh village in Latakia countryside, told Xinhua that the fire was so strong that nothing could stop in its way.
The man even lamented the fact that he can no longer enjoy the shades of his trees.
"The fire has swept farmlands and forests. Nothing could stand in its face. No bulldozers and nothing else. The wind was strong and the fire left nothing. There are no trees left to sit in their shades," he said.
The head of the agriculture department in Latakia, Munther Kheirbeik, told Xinhua that the circumstances of the work to put out the fire were so difficult and that the situation was impossible.
"Over the past 48 hours, the work was strenuous and we had to deal sometimes with 40 fires at once according to the capacity we have," he said.
He noted that they got help from other provinces to deal with the circumstances that were tough as the wind was northeastern and dry and the geographic nature of the areas was also tough, which made it hard for fire trucks to reach the fire.
Syrian Prime Minister Hussein Arnous on Friday instructed all concerned ministries and their affiliated authorities, firefighting teams, and civil defense units in all provinces to provide support and assistance in putting out the fires.
The new fires come a month after wildfires gutted 7,000 dunams (7 square km) in the countryside of the Masyaf area in Hama province in central Syria.