Middle East

Lebanon says rubbish dump birds may pose danger to planes

A general view shows Beirut's international airport, Lebanon November 21 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Birds attracted to the area by piles of rubbish are said to be putting planes landing at Beirut's international airport (pictured) in danger

Planes at Beirut's airport could be in danger after birds began flocking to a nearby rubbish dump, Lebanon's transport minister said.

Yusef Fenianos said the country faced an "emergency" as the birds continued to arrive in the area.

On Tuesday, a Middle East Airlines flight encountered a large flock of birds as it landed on the airport's west runway, local media report.

Activists are calling for the dump to be closed before a plane crashes.

The Costa Brava dump was created in March 2016, part of a temporary solution to the city's rubbish problem, which had seen tonnes of garbage pile up on its streets during the hottest months of the year.

But a planned waste processing facility on the Costa Brava site is yet to be built, allowing rubbish to build up as high as nine metres, according to reports.

Environmentalists have for months warned the dump is attracting rodents and increasing numbers of birds, while in August, the Lebanese pilots' union warned of the possibility of the birds being sucked into airplane engines.

However, it appears to have taken until now for Mr Fenianos to go to Prime Minister Saad Hariri to urge action.

"Today we face an emergency... we recognise that there is a danger posed to civil aviation movement by the birds," Mr Fenianos said in a statement, adding: "Thank God, up until now, the flights have not encountered any real danger."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Costa Brava dump was a solution to the rubbish piling up on Beirut's streets (pictured)

Mr Fenianos said he hoped an increase in devices emitting bird of prey calls around the airport would help solve the problem - a plan which was mocked by the activist movement "You Stink", launched to protest against government inaction at the height of the garbage crisis.

"The solution is not to scare the birds away," they said, calling for the dump to be closed.

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