Crop fires kill at least 7, wound 2 in northeast Syria
At least seven people were killed and two others injured on Saturday when fires ravaged crop fields around the city of Derik, northeastern Syria. It is the latest in a spate of harvest season fires that have become a daily occurrence across Syria and Iraq.
The fires broke out on Saturday in the villages of Tal Alo, Krifani, al-Hussainiya, Ilos, and Umm Kheif in the hinterlands of Tel Kochar in Derik in the far north of Hasaka governorate, Hawar News Agency reported.
Reports on the number of casualties vary.
Hawar said seven people were killed, including one woman and several members of the security forces.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) meanwhile put the number of casualties at nine, including five civilian men, one woman, two members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)-allied Al-Sanadid Arab Forces, and one member of the SDF Internal Security Forces (Asayesh).
Another two people were wounded, one of whom is being treated for severe injuries at Derik City Hospital, according to the city’s Health Department.
Firefighters, civilians, and members of security forces rushed to the scene to help farmers and locals extinguish the blaze.
Fires have ravaged the wheat fields of northern Syria in recent weeks.
Blame for the fires has been apportioned to various actors in Syria’s ongoing conflict.
Remnants of the Islamic State group (ISIS) have claimed responsibility for many of the wheat field blazes in Hasaka.
Syrian government forces have also been accused of arson in a bid to undermine the Kurdish administration that controls much of Syria’s most arable land.
Thousands of acres of wheat and barley fields in both Syria and Iraq have been scorched during the harvest season, which runs until mid-June.
Kurdish farmers have also blamed the fires on low-quality fuel and individual land disputes.
Earlier this week, a Kurdish official in Rojava called for help from the US-backed international coalition to help address farmland fires.
Salman Bardo, head of the Kurdish agriculture authority in Rojava, told AFP the recent wave of fires are a “danger for the region” as some of the fires are “close to oil wells and stations”.
Farmland fires has also ripped through vast areas of northern Iraq, devastating acres of wheat crops, displacing families, and killing and injuring those who attempting to fight the flames.
Both Syria and Iraq had unusually wet growing seasons this year. While this has provided a bountiful harvest season, it also left behind a growth of combustible dried grass and brush.