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Algeria fires fanned by winds, extreme heat kill over 30

Firefighters attempt to extinguish a raging forest fire near the town of Melloula in northwestern Tunisia close to the border with Algeria on July 24, 2023.   -  
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FETHI BELAID/AFP or licensors


Wildfires raging across Algeria during a blistering heatwave have killed at least 25 people and forced mass evacuations, the government said on Monday (Jul. 24.)

Over 20 people were left injured as the fires raged through residential areas the interior ministry noted.

In the Bouira province, this Zbarbar resident recalls how the fire started.

“It started to burn at around 2 p.m., just down from the military school," Boualam Ferhat says. 

"I called the fire brigade and I told them that the fire had started nearby. They got there half an hour later but in the meantime the fire had really spread."

The house of Ali Saibi, another Zbarbar resident, has been partly destroyed: "We lost my air conditioner, my windows burned and many other things," he says. 

"The fire started at Grouma on the Tablat-side, and it spread through Beni Malah and in the end it arrived at Bourebach, burning everything in its path. Some people lost everything."

The north African country recorded 97 blazes across 16 provinces, fanned by strong winds as temperatures hit 48 degrees Celsius (118 Fahrenheit) in parts of the nation.

The largest and deadliest fires ravaged parts of Bejaia and Jijel — in the Kabyle region east of Algiers — and Bouira, southeast of the capital.

The President on Monday (Jul. 24) expressed his condolences to the families of the deceased, both civilian and military.

7,500 firefighters mobilized

The interior ministry said that 7,500 firefighters and 350 firetrucks were mobilised to fight the blazes, aided by aerial fire-fighting support.

Operations were underway to extinguish fires in six provinces, it added, calling on citizens to "avoid areas affected by the fires" and to report new blazes on toll-free phone numbers.

Fires regularly rage through forests and fields in Algeria in summer, and this year have been exacerbated by a heatwave that has seen several Mediterranean countries break temperature records.

In August 2022, massive blazes killed 37 in Algeria's northeastern El Tarf province.

It was preceded by the deadliest summer in decades, with 90 people killed in such fires in 2021, particularly the Kabylie region.

In neighbouring Tunisia, temperatures on Monday neared 50 degrees Celsius.

Fires rage again in a Tunisian pine forest in Tabarka near the border with Algeria, after another blaze in the area last week. Flames were fanned by winds and the temperatures, which neared 50 degrees Celsius. At least 300 people were evacuated by sea and by land from the nearby village of Melloula, according to the national guard.

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