Forest fires kill 38 and injure dozens in northern Algeria

Children among the dead as heatwave exacerbates blazes

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At least 38 people have been killed and dozens injured in forest fires across northern Algeria, state media reported.

Fires blazed in 14 districts on Wednesday and killed at least 30 people — including children — in El Tarf, near the border with Tunisia, state TV reported. Blazes in the region have been exacerbated by drought and a heatwave.

A woman, 58, and her daughter, 31, were among those killed in Setif, emergency services said.

In souq Ahras, near the border with Tunisia, people fled their homes as fires spread before helicopters were sent to tackle the flames.

At least four people in the province attended by emergency services suffered burns and 41 others had breathing difficulties, the authorities said.

About 350 people were moved to safety, with roughly 50 people taken to hospital in El Tarf, a city with a population of about 100,000, TV station Ennahar reported.

The gendarmerie has closed several roads in the area due to the fires.

Damage caused by wildfires in Setif, Algeria. Getty Images

“Thirty-nine fires are under way in 14 districts,” the emergency services said.

El Tarf was the worst hit, with 16 fires burning in the area.

Helicopters used suspended buckets to drop water on blazes in three areas, including souq Ahras.

Algeria chartered a Russian water bomber plane to help fight the fires, but it broke down and will not be repaired until Saturday, said Kamel Beldjoud, Algeria's interior minister.

The fires have reopened a debate over the lack of water bombers in the country.

Algerian authorities cancelled a contract this year with a Spanish company for the supply of seven water bomber planes following a diplomatic row with Madrid, Mena Defence reported.

No action has been taken to replace the Spanish aircraft, which were set to be supplied by Air Nostrum subsidiary Plysa, local media reported.

The UAE expressed its sincere condolences to the Algerian government and the families of the victims, wishing the injured a speedy recovery.

Some fires started intentionally

Since the start of August, 106 fires have broken out in Algeria, destroying more than 2,500 hectares of woodland.

Mr Beldjoud said some of the fires had been started intentionally.

Algeria is Africa's largest country and has 4.1 million hectares of forest.

Each year, the north of the country is affected by forest fires, a problem that has worsened due to climate change.

Last year, at least 90 people died in forest fires that ravaged northern areas, destroying more than 100,000 hectares of woodland.

Updated: August 18, 2022, 3:28 PM
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