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Tuesday, 29 February, 2000, 15:38 GMT
Arrests over Ethiopian forest fires

Ethiopia says nearly 150 people have been arrested on charges of causing the fires that are raging through the south of the country.

Fires have been burning for almost three weeks, with two main blazes in Borena and Bale regions prompting a government appeal for international help in fighting them.


The two fires could meet and this would be disastrous

Ethiopian Agriculture Ministry
Ethiopian television said five people had been injured and 34,000 hectares (84,000 acres) of forest destroyed in the fires.

It reported that 76 people had been detained in Borena and 70 in Bale, with the authorities saying they are "under investigation for allegedly causing the fire" as part of a preliminary investigation.

Help needed

More than 8,000 people are being deployed to contain the fires, but the agriculture ministry has said that aircraft-based operations are needed and Ethiopia has neither the technical nor financial resources required.

The agriculture ministry has warned that if the two fires met it "would be disastrous".

The region has had two years with almost no rain, and the fires are known to have killed livestock and destroyed homes.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Belay Ijigu blamed "a prolonged dry season, windy weather and the rugged nature of the topography" for exacerbating the fires.

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