Fires in Algeria: at least 38 dead, including families trapped in a bus

Fires in Algeria: at least 38 dead, including families trapped in a bus

Algeria is hit by a series of drought-related fires and an intense heat wave, which have killed 38 people and destroyed several houses.

Firefighters in Algeria fought Thursday against about twenty forest fires linked to drought and intense heat, which ravaged everything in their path, killing at least 38 people, including families trapped in a bus.

< p class="e-p">The toll rose with 30 dead, including 11 children and 6 women in El Tarf, in the far east, near the border with Tunisia, 5 in Souk Ahras, 2 in Sétif (north) and one in Guelma (east), according to civil protection and local media which also reported more than 200 injuries, including 10 firefighters.

The victims in Souk Ahras, also in the far east of the country, are from the same family and were buried in the presence of a large crowd, according to television footage.

The Ministry of Justice has opened an investigation to determine whether the fires started on Wednesday were of criminal origin after statements by the Minister of the Interior, citing fires caused.

According to civil protection, 24 fires are still ongoing in 7 prefectures. In the past 24 hours, 1,700 firefighters have been mobilized to put out 118 homes across 21 prefectures. The army and civil protection use water bomber helicopters.

According to civil protection, 24 fires are still ongoing in seven prefectures.

Every year, northern Algeria is affected by forest fires, but this phenomenon has been accentuated by climate change, which increases the likelihood of heat waves and droughts. It was around 48 degrees Celsius on Wednesday in El Tarf, Guelma and Souk Ahras.

On the road to El Kala, near El Tarf, a town of 100,000 people, an AFP team saw charred trees, burnt vehicles, wild-eyed people in farms where sheep and chickens burned to death.

A tornado of fire engulfed an animal park in El Kala, and a dozen people died after being trapped in a bus , in front of the zoo, according to witnesses.

We tried to help families escape. No one came to our aid, neither the fire department nor anyone else. It was the employees who tried to get people out of the park which was surrounded by flames, said Takyeddine, 22, an employee, one of whose colleagues died.

The fire devastated everything in its path.

Prime Minister Aymen Benabderrahmane went to El Tarf on Thursday, where he explained to the media that with gusts of more than 90 km/h, it was very difficult to fight these fires.

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An opinion shared by an aeronautical expert. Such a wind makes it practically impossible for the water bomber helicopters to work as close as possible to the fire.

All artistic activities in the country have been postponed after the tragedy. Associations organize the collection of money and medicines for the benefit of the victims, many of whom have suffered severe burns.

These fires have revived the debate on the lack of water bombers, which had agitated the country in 2021 when at least 90 people had perished in the north, in particular in Kabylie, in the worst fires in modern history. Algeria.

In recent days, authorities mobilized a Russian Beriev BE 200 water bomber, which broke down and will not be operational until Saturday, the official said. Minister of the Interior, Kamel Beldjoud.

Algeria recently canceled a contract to charter seven water bombers to a Spanish company after a diplomatic spat with Madrid over the Western Sahara issue.

According to Mr. Benabderrahmane, Algeria has ordered four water bombers, the first of which will be delivered in December.

A cow standing in a burnt forest.

During an Algerian-Canadian seminar in May on the fight against forest fires by aerial means, specialists had recommended to #x27;establish a national control system at least equivalent to that which existed in the 1980s, indicated on condition of anonymity an expert who participated in the debates.

At the time, he said, authorities had 22 Grumman-type devices which were sold for the token dinar with no alternatives offered.

On social networks, the academic Rafik Baba-Ahmed pointed the finger at poor management of wooded areas invaded by human activities. Today, the forest is weakened, nibbled away.

The largest country in Africa, Algeria has a limited forest area of ​​4.1 million hectares, with a meager reforestation rate of 1.76%.

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