On Monday, July 24, officials reported that at least 25 people lost their lives, and thousands were evacuated due to nearly 100 wildfires that erupted across Algeria. The situation occurred amidst soaring temperatures and heatwaves affecting the region, which has been experiencing extreme weather conditions in North Africa and southern Europe.
According to the country’s interior ministry, 97 wildfires were reported across Algeria’s 16 provinces which affected forest, crops and farmland. The blaze has led to 25 deaths, including nearly a dozen soldiers, in the mountainous regions of Bejaia and Bouira, said the government.
At least 10 soldiers were also killed in the fires, said the Algerian defence ministry. The interior ministry official also said that the wildfires have been fanned by strong winds and injured around 26 people as they raged through residential areas, adding that most had been put out.
Response to the wildfires
So far, some 1,500 people have been evacuated from the Bejaia, Bouira and Jijel provinces, said the government. This comes as the three provinces, east of the capital Algiers and in the country’s Mediterranean coastal region witnessed the worst of the fires.
The interior ministry said that at least 7,500 firefighters and 350 fire trucks have been deployed to fight the flames which are also backed by aerial fire-fighting support.
Firefighting operations are underway in six provinces, said the government, and urged the citizens to “avoid areas affected by the fires,” and report any new blazes.
“Civil protection services remain mobilised until the fires are completely extinguished,” said the interior ministry.
Heatwave worsens situation
The wildfires also come amid a major heatwave which is sweeping North Africa where the temperatures reached as high as 49 degree Celsius in some parts of Algeria and cities in neighbouring Tunisia.
Recently, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ranked the Mediterranean region as a climate-change “hot spot,” and warned about more heatwaves, crop failures, droughts, rising seas, and influxes of invasive species.
Wildfires in neighbouring Tunisia
Last week, the North African nation of Tunisia also battled a major blaze in a pine forest near the border with Algeria. The wildfire had also prompted the temporary closure of a border crossing, while Tunisian officials also confirmed that 1,100 acres of forest had been burned.
However, witnesses told Reuters that wildfires swept through Tunisia’s border town of Melloula. The blaze which began in the mountainous areas had reached some people’s homes in the town and hundreds were forced to leave.
A report by Reuters citing a civil protection official said they had evacuated hundreds of the town’s residents by land and by sea, in fishermen’s boats and coastguard vessels.