At Least 65 People Dead as Wildfires Rip Through Algeria

People attempt to put out a fire in the mountainous Tizi Ouzou province, east of Algiers, Algeria August 10, 2021. REUTERS/Abdelaziz Boumzar

Wildfires tearing through forested areas of northern Algeria have killed at least 65 people, state television reported on Wednesday, as some of the most destructive blazes in the country’s history continued to rage.

The government has deployed the army to help fight the fires, which have burnt most fiercely in the mountainous Kabylie region, and 28 of the dead are soldiers, with another 12 critically injured with burns.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared three days of national mourning for the dead and froze state activities not related to the fires.

Forest fires have set large parts of Algeria, Turkey and Greece aflame over the past week and a European Union atmosphere monitor said the Mediterranean had become a wildfire hotspot aided by increasingly hot weather.

Dozens of separate fires have raged through forest areas across northern Algeria since Monday and on Tuesday Interior Minister Kamel Beldjoud accused arsonists of igniting the flames, without providing any evidence.

The worst hit area has been Tizi Ouzou, the largest district of the Kabylie region, where houses have burned and residents fled to shelter in hotels, hostels and university accommodation in nearby towns.

The government has said it will compensate those affected.

Last week, a European Union atmosphere monitor said the Mediterranean had become a wildfire hotspot as massive blazes engulfed forests in Turkey and Greece, aided by a heatwave.

Residents of the Tizi Ouzou region in Kabylie used tree branches to try to smother burning patches of forest or hurled water from plastic containers in a desperate effort to douse the fire.

The soldiers were killed in different areas, some while trying to extinguish the flames and others after they were cut off by the spreading fire, Kabylie residents said. The Defense Ministry said more soldiers had been badly injured with burns.

SOURCE: Reuters

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