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Morocco's largest fires about to be contained - Authorities

Morocco's largest fires about to be contained - Authorities
Firefighting planes drop water to put out a forest blaze in Larache, northern Morocco, Friday, July 15, 2022.   -  
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AP/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Moroccan firefighting services made progress on Sunday to contain fires that have been ravaging forests in five northern provinces of the kingdom since Wednesday, local authorities told AFP.

In the province of Larache, the largest fire -- covering nearly 5,300 hectares -- has been brought under control "at 70%" while rescue workers are working to overcome the remaining five smaller fires", local sources said.

A total of 1,331 families had to be evacuated from 20 douars (villages) and some 170 houses were destroyed in this region south of the port of Tangier, where one person died as a result of the fires.

Rescue teams were in the process of controlling another active outbreak -- which devastated 400 hectares of pine and fruit tree plantations -- in the neighboring province of Ouezzane.

Elsewhere, firefighters and military personnel have been able to control forest fires in often hard-to-reach areas of the northern regions of Chefchaouen, Tetouan and Taza.

Water stress

The causes of these fires are not known but the human factor is not excluded, according to the authorities.

Media outlets like the Arabic-language daily Al Akhbar in its Sunday edition, questionned the implementation "of the integrated disaster risk management program".

In addition to four firefighting planes dropping water and four Turbo Thrush aircraft, elements of the Civil Protection, Water and Forests, the Royal Armed Forces (FAR) and the gendarmerie backed up the military. They were assisted by local authorities and volunteers who are still in duty to stop the advance of the flames.

As a comparison, a total of 2,782 hectares of forest had been affected by 285 fires from January to September 2021 in Morocco, especially in the mountainous region of Rif (north), according to the Department of Water and Forests.

Morocco has been hit for a week by a heat wave, with temperatures approaching 45 degrees Celsius, in a context of unusual drought and water stress.

On the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar, devastating fires are also raging in southern Western Europe as a result of a heat wave that could bring down several temperature records early next week.

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