Algeria continues to fight forest fires, death toll rises

Firefighters, soldiers and volunteers continue this Saturday fighting against the last forest fires that devastate the north of Algeria. These fires have killed about 90 people since Monday, including 33 soldiers, according to reports from local authorities.

According to the Algerian leaders, most of these fires are of “criminal” origin and arsonists have been arrested. However, experts and witnesses point to the lack of anticipation and prevention of the public powers in the face of a phenomenon that is repeated every year in Algeria. Additionally, these wildfires are currently being intensified by extreme heat.

The Ministry of Defense organized this Saturday two ceremonies in honor of the 33 soldiers who perished while fighting the flames, one in the military hospital in Algiers, in the presence of the Chief of Staff, Saïd Chenegriha, and the other to Constantine. “These heroes sacrificed their souls for the homeland and to save their fellow citizens from the fires set in different regions of our country,” declared General Boualem Madi, Director of Defense Communication during a funeral prayer, on the third and last day of National duel. .

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune visited the wounded, civilians and soldiers, hospitalized in Algiers on Saturday, promising to implement all the necessary means for their care. In the absence of a new official global report, reports from local authorities, Civil Protection and the Ministry of Defense show a total of about 90 deaths since Monday.

Civil Protection reported “42 ongoing fires in 15 wilayas (prefectures),” including 14 in Tizi Ouzou and 7 in Béjaïa, in Kabylia, the most affected region. “Nine fires under control in 4 wilayas,” said the same source in a tweet. By Thursday, 100 fires had been identified across the country. “The helicopters of the Civil Protection Air Group and the Army carried out 235 water bombings, not forgetting 172 water bombings in Tizi-Ouzou, Béjaïa and Jijel,” said Civil Protection.

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Two French water bombers, made available by Paris through the European Union (EU), as well as a liaison plane, intervened en masse on Thursday and Friday in Kabylia. A Spanish water bomber arrived this Saturday and a second is expected in the next few hours, according to the official APS agency. A third device should be deployed soon from Switzerland, according to Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

A total of 43 homes have gone extinct in 20 prefectures in the last 24 hours. About 7,500 Civil Protection agents are deployed with 490 firefighting vans and three helicopters. The army also mobilized five heavy helicopters MI-26, of Russian origin. According to the specialized site Mena Defense, the Algerian army plans to buy eight Russian Beriev Be-200 water bombers. Three of them were to arrive in Algiers this Saturday, according to local media.

Russia has offered to put four water pumps at the disposal of Algeria, according to APS, which explains that “due to the lack of overflight authorizations from Greece and Cyprus,” their arrival was delayed. They should arrive at the site “in the next few hours.” Faced with the tragedy, gestures of solidarity from civil society are manifested on the ground and international aid is organized. “We get help from everywhere. I saw trucks and vans from all over Algeria ”, enthuses a young volunteer, quoted by the Francophone newspaper. Liberty.

Meteorological services predict temperatures of up to 48 degrees in a country already under water stress. Algeria, the largest country in Africa, has only 4.1 million hectares of forest, with a meager reforestation rate of 1.76%. Every year, the north of the country is affected by forest fires. In 2020, almost 44,000 hectares of scrubland disappeared. The fires that are increasing around the world are associated with various phenomena anticipated by scientists due to global warming.

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