The death toll in the fires ravaging forests and mountain villages in Algeria’s Berber region rose to 65 on Wednesday, including 28 soldiers, the country’s civil protection authority announced, against 42 people and 25 soldiers on Tuesday. .
President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said his North African nation would enter a three-day mourning period starting Thursday that would include the suspension of all government activities except solidarity actions.
Dozens of fires began on Monday to burn forested mountains in the Berber region of Kabyle, east of the capital Algiers, destroying village houses, olive groves and animals that keep the region alive. .
18 fires still active
The forestry director of Tizi-Ouzou, the regional capital, said on Wednesday that 18 fires remained active in the region. Dozens of fires burned elsewhere in the north, but their deadly force was concentrated in Kabyle.
There was no official explanation for the high death toll among the soldiers, but photos in Algerian media showed soldiers in military fatigues without fire protection clothing.
The prime minister and interior minister both said on Tuesday that arson was suspected in the Kabyle fires, despite a heat wave and high winds stoking the flames.
North Africa has suffocated in scorching temperatures, including in neighboring Tunisia where fires scattered across the east have been reported.
The Algerian National Meteorological Office said high temperatures were expected until Thursday in nearly a dozen regions, including around Tizi-Ouzou. In some places, the thermometer should reach 47 degrees Celsius.
France will send aid
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter that Paris would send aid to Algeria.
“As of tomorrow, two Canadairs and a command plane will be deployed in Kabylia, ravaged by violent fires,” the French head of state wrote on Wednesday.
The Kabyle region, 100 kilometers east of Algiers, the capital of Algeria, is dotted with villages that are difficult to access and has little water. Some of the villagers fled, while others tried to contain the flames themselves, using buckets, branches and rudimentary tools. The region does not have water dump planes.
Elsewhere in the world
Climatologists say that there is no doubt that climate change due to the combustion of coal, oil and natural gas is the cause of extreme events, such as heat waves, droughts, fires in forest, floods and storms.
Worsening drought and heat – both linked to climate change – are causing wildfires in the western United States and Siberia. Extreme heat is also fueling massive fires in Greece and Turkey.