Widespread forest fires wreak havoc in Algeria, 34 confirmed dead

Widespread forest fires wreak havoc in Algeria, 34 confirmed dead f

Destructive forest fires have been burning along Algeria’s Mediterranean coast over the past couple of days, leading to at least 34 fatalities. The fires, which were fueled by strong winds and intense heatwave, spread across multiple provinces and even extended to neighboring Tunisia.

A total of 97 fires have been recorded across 16 prefectures and the worst affected are Béjaïa, Bouira and Jijel. According to national authorities, at least 34 people died and 26 have been injured.

Fires broke out in several provinces on Monday, July 24, 2023, consuming vast expanses of forests, olive groves, and low-lying shrubland. With the winds fanning the flames, the situation escalated rapidly, prompting the deployment of over 8 000 firefighters. By the next day, Algerian civil protection services reported 15 fires were actively burning across eight regions, including Skikda, Jijel, Bouira, Bejaia, Tebessa, Medea, Setif, and El Tarf.

Among the 34 victims reported on Monday were ten soldiers. In a measure to protect civilians, authorities evacuated approximately 1 500 people from their homes. Despite these efforts, the death toll continued to rise as the fires relentlessly advanced.

Strong winds carried the inferno across the border into Tunisia, leading to the closure of two border crossings. Tunisia experienced fires in various regions, including Bizerte, Beja, and Siliana, with temperatures in some cities reaching a sweltering 49 °C (120 °F).

In the northwest region of Tabarka, which borders Algeria, authorities evacuated around 2 500 people in the village of Melloula, Jendouba Province. The priority was to safeguard residential communities and prevent the blaze from reaching an airport in the area, according to Moez Tria, the spokesperson for Tunisian civil protection.

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References:

1 Deadly fires rage along Algeria coast, spread to Tunisia – Reuters – July 25, 2023

2 Algeria wildfires – DG ECHO – July 25, 2023

Featured image credit: Al Jazeera (stillshot)

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