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Tags: Algeria | Forest Fires

25 Soldiers Die Fighting Wildfires in Northern Algeria

25 Soldiers Die Fighting Wildfires in Northern Algeria

Tuesday, 10 August 2021 03:00 PM

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) —

Algeria’s president announced Tuesday night that 25 soldiers were killed saving residents from the wildfires ravaging forests and villages east of the capital.

The president of the sprawling North African nation tweeted that the soldiers saved 100 citizens from the blazes in two areas in the mountainous Kabyle region, home of the Berbers.

Four other soldiers were seriously burned and seven others also had burns, the Defense Ministry said.

Dozens of blazes sprang up Monday in the mountainous Kabyle region and elsewhere, and Algerian authorities sent in the army to help citizens battle blazes and evacuate.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Firefighters and residents armed with simple tools battled a rash of forest fires in northern Algeria on Tuesday that officials said killed at least seven people. The nation's interior minister blamed “criminal hands” for some of the blazes.

Multiple fires were burning through forests and devouring the olive trees, cattle and chickens that provide the livelihoods of families in the mountainous Kabyle region. Interior Minister Kamel Beldjoud traveled to Kabyle, home of the Berbers, to assess the situation.

“Thirty fires at the same time in the same region can’t be by chance,” Beldjoud said on national television, although no arrests were announced.

Other northern areas of Algeria also had active wildfires. The Civil Protection authority said on Algerian radio that seven people had died, six in Kabyle and a man in his 80s trying to save his animals in the Setif region to the east. It counted 41 blazes in 18 wilayas, or regions, as of Monday night, with 21 of them burning around the Kabyle capital of Tizi Ouzou.

The online media outlet TSA said up to 11 people had been killed in the blazes, including those in Kabyle. Many started Monday, spurred on by high temperatures and wind.

A 92-year-old woman living in the Kabyle mountain village of Ait Saada said the scene Monday night looked like “the end of the world.”

“We were afraid,” Fatima Aoudia told The Associated Press. “The entire hill was transformed into a giant blaze.”

Like older adults quoted by Algerian media, Aoudia compared the scene to bombings by French troops during Algeria's brutal independence war, which ended in 1962.

“These burned down forests. It’s a part of me that is gone,” Aoudia said. “It’s a drama for humanity, for nature. It’s a disaster.”

The Defense Ministry said Tuesday that soldiers were sent into four regions, including Kabylie, the day before to help battle the blaze and evacuate trapped residents. Bulldozers were brought in to cut firebreaks into thick forests.

Despite the damage, the multiple blazes in this North African country were limited in scope compared to the blazes ravaging Greece's second-largest island of Evia a nd other areas in that country.

Climate scientists say there is little doubt climate change from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is driving extreme events, such as heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods and storms. A worsening drought and heat – both linked to climate change – are driving wildfires in the U.S. West and Siberia. Extreme heat is also fueling the massive fires in Greece and Turkey.

The Kabyle region, 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of Algeria's capital of Algiers, is dotted with difficult-to-access villages and water is in short supply during the hot season. Some villagers were fleeing, while others tried to hold back the flames themselves, using buckets, branches and other means. The region has no water-dumping planes.

A Civil Protection ambulance driver told the AP that the death toll in Kabyle was higher than the six victims cited by the interior minister. The driver asked not to be identified by name because he was not authorized to speak about the situation.

He said firefighters were arriving Tuesday from Algiers and four other cities.

“Fortunately,” he added. “The fire has just started up again” in Beni Yenni, an ancient mountain village known for its Berber jewelry.

Follow all AP stories on climate change issues at https://apnews.com/hub/climate.

© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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Algeria's president announced Tuesday night that 25 soldiers were killed saving residents from the wildfires ravaging forests and villages east of the capital. The president of the sprawling North African nation tweeted that the soldiers saved 100 citizens from the blazes...
Algeria,Forest Fires
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2021-00-10
Tuesday, 10 August 2021 03:00 PM
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