Heatwave fuels wildfires in Morocco

Country is struggling with intense drought and has been hit by soaring temperatures

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Hundreds of Moroccan firefighters and soldiers battled late on Thursday to put out at least four fires ripping through forests in the north of the kingdom.

The fires, fanned by strong winds in the four areas, have not resulted in any casualties so far, but nearly 500 families were moved "as a precaution" in the provinces of Larache and Taza, according to official statements.

In several villages that were evacuated military planes dropped loads of water to extinguish fires tearing across the dry terrain.

Shocked by how fast the flames were spreading, residents fled their homes, with some families herding their cattle and horses ― upon which their livelihoods depend ― ahead of them.

"I was with my family, and at one point, we heard people shouting, 'Fire! Fire!'" Samir Boundad, from Larache, told AFP.

"We ran out to flee and fortunately, thanks to God, the fire moved up the mountain."

A village in the Ksar El Kebir region was destroyed by the flames.

Hundreds of civil defence workers, as well as soldiers and police officers, are trying to stop the fires from causing more destruction.

In four provinces ― Larache, Ouezzane, Tetouan and Taza ― the fires ripped through forestland that is difficult to access, said Fouad Assali, head of the National Centre for Forest Climate Risk Management.

"Efforts are continuing in the hope of bringing these fires under control," Mr Assali told the official MAP news agency.

Since Wednesday night, at least 1,000 hectares of forest were burnt in Larache and Ouezzane, according to initial reports, leaving burnt trees smouldering under a sky blanketed by plumes of smoke.

The North African nation, which is struggling under an intense drought, has in recent days been hit by soaring temperatures approaching 45ºC.

"It is the heat that causes this kind of fire. It was yesterday at dawn that the fire reached our village," Ahmed Mezouar, 58, a resident of Larache, told AFP. He said he was hopeful that firefighters would be able to contain it.

Still, he worried, because a neighbouring village had been completely surrounded by the flames.

Updated: July 15, 2022, 7:53 AM