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Deadly forest fires ravage northern Algeria

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At least 26 people have been killed and dozens more injured in wildfires that devastated 14 districts of northern Algeria on Wednesday, the interior minister said.

Kamel Beldjoud told state television that 24 people were killed in fires in El Tarf, near the border with Tunisia, in addition to two others who had previously died in Setif.

The Civil Protection Bureau in Setif had said that two women, “a 58-year-old mother and her 31-year-old daughter”, had been murdered in the city.

In Souk Ahras, further east near Algeria’s border with Tunisia, people were seen fleeing their homes as fires spread before fire fighting helicopters were deployed.

According to an earlier toll, four people in Souk Ahras had suffered burns and 41 others had breathing difficulties, authorities said. According to media reports, 350 residents had been evacuated.

No updated toll has been given on the number of people injured in the fires in other areas.

The gendarmerie has closed several roads as a result of the fires.

“Thirty-nine fires are underway in 14 wilayas (administrative councils),” the civil defense agency said, noting that El Tarf was the hardest hit, with 16 fires underway.

Helicopters used bambi buckets to drop water on fires in three wilayas, including Souk Ahras.

Since early August, 106 fires have broken out in Algeria, destroying more than 2,500 hectares of forest.

According to Beldjoud, some fires were started by people.

Wednesday’s toll brings the total number of people killed by wildfires this summer to 30.

Algeria is the largest country in Africa, but it has only 4.1 million hectares of forest.

Every year, forest fires hit the north of the country, a problem exacerbated by climate change.

Last year, at least 90 people died in wildfires that devastated northern Algeria and destroyed more than 100,000 hectares of forest.

(AFP)

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