More than 40 dead in forest fires in Algeria, says prime minister

Forty-two people, including 25 military personnel, were killed in forest fires that broke out east of the Algerian capital Algiers, Prime Minister Ayman Benabderrahmane said on Tuesday.

Photographs posted on social media show huge walls of flame and billowing clouds of smoke rising above charred trees in the forested hills of the Kabylie region, east of the capital Algiers.

Algeria joins a number of countries that will be hit by major fires in recent weeks, including Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Russia and the United States.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune tweeted his condolences for the 25 soldiers who died while rescuing people in the Bejaiea and Tizi Ouzou areas, the epicenter of the fires.

“It is with great sadness that I learned of the martyrdom of 25 soldiers after they managed to rescue about 100 citizens from the flames in the mountains of Bejaia and Tizi Ouzou,” the president said.

The Defense Ministry said the soldiers’ actions “saved 110 people – men, women and children – from the flames.”

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State radio said three “arsonists” had been arrested in the northern Medea district and another in Annaba, in connection with other fires.

More than 70 fires have occurred in 14 northern states of the country, including 10 in particular around Tizi Ouzou, one of the most populated cities in Kabylie.

An AFP photographer in Tizi Ouzou saw doctors removing the bodies of people killed in the fire.

Forecasters said the temperature would hit 46 ° C (115 ° F) on Tuesday in a North African country also facing a severe water shortage.

Interior Minister Kamel Beldjoud, on a visit to the northern city, told television that “50 fires starting at the same time is impossible. These fires are criminal in origin.”

The civil protection directorate said 12 urban centers in the north were affected by fires.

Suspicion of arson

Public radio reported the arrest of three suspected arsonists in Medea.

The arson has been blamed for several major fires in recent years in Algeria.

Last month, President Tebboune ordered a bill to toughen penalties for starting a wildfire, with sentences of up to 30 years in prison, and possible life in prison if the fire results in death.

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In July, three people were arrested on suspicion of starting fires that devastated 15 square kilometers (six square miles) of forest in the Aures Mountains.

In 2020, almost 440 square kilometers (170 square miles) of forest were destroyed by fire and several people were arrested on suspicion of arson.

On Monday, the United Nations released a major report showing how the threat of global warming is even more acute than previously thought.

He highlighted how scientists are quantifying the extent to which human-induced warming increases the intensity and / or probability of a specific extreme weather event, such as a heat wave or wildfire.

( Jowharwith AFP and REUTERS)

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