UPDATE, OCT 12:

Assad regime officials say they have brought forest fires in northwest Syria under control.

The blazes across Latakia, Tartous, and Homs Provinces destroyed hundreds of hectares of land, killed at least three people, and threatened the city of Baniyas and Bashar al-Assad’s hometown of Qardaha.

Agriculture Minister Mohammed Hassan Qatana said there were a total of 156 fires. State news agency SANA said that, while the fires were under control, firefighters and civil defense personnel supported by army helicopters were still active.

Prime Minister Hussein Arnous said recovery work has begun, with assistance to those who have fled their homes.


ORIGINAL ENTRY, OCT 11: Large forest fires are again raging in northwest Syria.

State media and Assad regime officials said on Saturday that at least two people have been killed in the blazes in Latakia and Tartous Provinces.

Showing images of the inferno, State TV reported that hundreds of hectares had burned, with Agriculture Minister Mohammed Hassan Qatana announcing 45 fires in Latakia and 33 in Tartous. The Health Ministry said 70 people have been hospitalized with breathing difficulties.

“For the first time in its history, Syria is witnessing this [large] number of fires in a single day,” Qatana said.

State news agency SANA said the fires have reached the coastal city of Banyias and Qardahah, Bashar al-Assad’s hometown in Latakia Province, damaging a building used for tobacco storage and surrounding the hospital with flames.

Fires last month burned across Latakia, Idlib, and Homs Provinces, destroying an area of more than 7 square km in regime territory and burning badly-needed crops amid food shortages throughout the country.

The blazes were triggered by seasonal temperatures that have been 11 degrees Celsius (20 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than normal.

See UPDATED: Forest Fires Spread Across Northwest Syria