According to the government, forest fires in Algeria killed 42 people on Tuesday, including 25 soldiers who were dispatched to help put out the blaze. Thick clouds of smoke blanketed much of the mountainous Kabylie region east of the capital.
Since Monday night, dozens of separate fires have raged through forest areas across northern Algeria, with Interior Minister Kamel Beldjoud accusing arsonists of starting the fires without providing more details.
“Only criminal hands could be responsible for the simultaneous outbreak of about 50 fires in multiple locations,” he said.
The Mediterranean had become a wildfire hotspot, according to a European Union atmosphere monitor, as massive blazes engulfed forests in Turkey and Greece, aided by a heatwave. find out more
In a desperate attempt to put out the fire, residents in Kabylie’s Tizi Ouzou region used tree branches to try to smother burning patches of forest or hurled water from plastic containers.
According to Kabylie residents, the soldiers were killed in various locations, some while attempting to extinguish the flames and others after being cut off by the spreading fire. More soldiers were severely burned, according to the Defense Ministry.
According to witnesses, several homes were set ablaze as families sought refuge in hotels, youth hostels, and university residences, who added that the dense smoke made it difficult for fire crews to see.
“It was a nightmare night for us. Mohamed Kaci, who had fled with his family from the village of Azazga to a hotel, said, “My house is completely burnt.”
On Tuesday night, Prime Minister Ayman Benabderrahmane said on state television that the death toll had risen to 42, including 25 military personnel. He added that the government was in “advanced talks with (foreign) partners to hire planes and assist in the extinguishment of fires.”
Firefighters and the army were still battling the blazes, and Beldjoud stated that the priority was to avoid any additional casualties. He promised to compensate those who had been harmed.
Since Monday night, smaller fires have ravaged forests in at least 16 provinces across North Africa.