Accessibility links

Breaking News

Algeria Wildfires Contained

FILE: Smoke billows as a fire burns woodland by a mountain town in the Ait Daoud area of northern Algeria. Taken 8.13.2021

Wildfires which killed at least 38 people and left a trail of destruction in northeastern Algeria this week have now been contained, a civil defense official told AFP on Friday.

"All of the fires have been completely brought under control," said fire brigade Colonel Farouk Achour, of the civil defense department.

Authorities said they deployed more than 1,700 firefighters over Wednesday and Thursday to tackle the widespread blazes.

The dead included more than 10 children and a similar number of firefighters, according to multiple sources including local journalists and the fire service.

Most were in the El Tarf region near Algeria's eastern border with Tunisia, an area which was sweltering earlier this week in 48 degree Celsius (118 Fahrenheit) heat.

Among the victims were five members of the same family who perished in flames around the mountainous area of Souk Ahras.

A witness, who asked not to be named, said 12 people had burned to death in their bus as they tried to escape when fire ripped through an animal park.

Takeddine, a worker at the park who declined to give his full name, said staff had helped families with young children to escape as flames surrounded the park.

"Nobody came to help us, neither the fire service nor anyone else," he told AFP.

Since the beginning of August, almost 150 blazes have destroyed hundreds of hectares of forest in Africa's largest country.

Fires last year killed at least 90 people and seared 100,000 hectares of forest and farmland in the country's north.

Experts have called for a major effort to bolster the firefighting capacity of Algeria, which has more than four million hectares of forest.

On Thursday, Algeria's Prime Minister Aimene Benabderrahmane defended the government's response, saying his country had ordered four new firefighting aircraft but they would not be available until December.

He added that strong winds had exacerbated the blazes and said authorities were "deploying all their means" to extinguish them.