In the region of Tizi Ouzou, Algeria, on August 12th. ABDELAZIZ BOUMZAR / Portal
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Fierce forest fires have killed at least 38 people in Algeria in recent days, according to a new report published on Thursday, August 18. That number rose with thirty dead in the El Tarf area in the east, near the border with Tunisia, five in Souk Ahras (east), two women in Sétif (east) and one person in Guelma, still in the east, according to Civil Protection, local Journalists and Ennahar television. In addition, more than two hundred people were injured, according to local media.
Of the thirty-nine fires that ravaged fourteen wilayas (departments) in northern Algeria, some were still ongoing as of Thursday. Authorities fear a fire could break out due to gusts of wind.
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Army civil defense and water bomber helicopters intervened in several cities. Algeria has chartered a Russian Beriev Be-200 water bomber, but after responding to several fires it broke down and will not be operational again until Saturday, Interior Minister Kamel Beldjoud reported Wednesday night.
Prime Minister Aymen Benabderrahmane arrived in El Tarf on Thursday morning, according to television. The gendarmerie blocked several national roads because of the fires.
In Souk Ahras, near the Tunisian border, a major fire was still raging in the mountainous region of Jebel Oued Chouk on Thursday morning, according to a local journalist contacted by telephone from Agence France-Presse (AFP). He spoke of panic scenes on Wednesday in the city of five hundred thousand inhabitants. According to this journalist, 97 women and 17 newborns who were in a hospital near a forested area had to be evacuated.
One hundred and six fires since early August
Near Algiers, August 11, 2022. RYAD KRAMDI / AFP
The north of Algeria is ravaged by forest fires every year, but this phenomenon is intensifying every year under the influence of climate change. Global warming increases the likelihood of heat waves and droughts, and therefore fires. In El Tarf, Guelma and Souk Ahras it was around 48 degrees on Wednesday.
These fires ignite sores and the debate over the lack of water bombers in sufficient numbers that had already rocked the country after deadly fires last summer. The summer of 2021 was Algeria’s deadliest since independence: at least ninety people died in wildfires that ravaged the north, where more than 100,000 hectares of woodland went up in smoke.
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Since the beginning of August, 106 fires have broken out in Algeria, destroying 800 hectares of forest and 1,800 hectares of coppice, Mr Beldjoud said. “Some of these fires were caused,” the interior minister said.
Algeria, the largest country in Africa, has only 4.1 million hectares of forest with a meager reforestation rate of 1.76%.