Worst Algeria Wildfires in Decades Kill 65 as France Offers Help
(Bloomberg) -- The worst wildfires in decades have killed at least 65 people in Algeria’s forested mountains, making it the latest Mediterranean nation to be struck by devastating blazes as temperatures have risen to unprecedented highs.
France offered help, including two Canadair firefighting aircraft, but it wasn’t clear if officials had accepted the assistance from Algeria’s former colonial ruler.
Twenty-eight soldiers were among the dead, with the mountainous and historically restive region of Kabylie, east of the capital, the worst hit, state news agency APS reported.
Only 17 of 103 fires that erupted across 17 governorates since Monday have been extinguished, it quoted Ali Mahmoudi, director general of the Forestry Department, as saying.
While wildfires are a relatively regular occurrence in Algeria, this week’s were the country’s biggest and deadliest in several decades. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced three days of national mourning on Wednesday.
French-language TSA Algerie, which visited Kabylie on Wednesday, said the wildfires left a trail of desolation all along the usually lush road linking Tizi Ouzou to Bouira. Several villages were abandoned.
Residents in one village, Ath Yenni, said in text messages that four people had been killed there, while five-meter-high flames had reduced the sole clinic to ashes. Food, water and medicines were scarce.
The leader of Rally for Culture and Democracy, an opposition party which counts the region as its main support base, said the wildfires had destroyed hundreds of homes and forced the evacuation of dozens of villages “in a horrific scene.” It urged authorities to seek international assistance “given the shortage in fire trucks and the near total absence of airborne means” to control the blazes.
Authorities in the closely controlled country have blamed arsonists for the fires. But soaring temperatures have triggered blazes across the Mediterranean in Greece, Turkey and Italy, triggering debate over the impact of man-made climate change. Neighboring Tunisia has also been battling wildfires since Tuesday.
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