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Algeria: Death toll from forest fires rises to 69

12th Aug 2021
Algeria: Death toll from forest fires rises to 69

By Hossam al-Din Islam, Hassan Jebril and Hamdi Yildiz

 

ALGIERS, Algeria (AA): The death toll in Algeria from wildfires has risen to 69, according to a local official, while France has announced plans to help the North African country contain the flames.

At least 69 people, including 28 soldiers and 41 civilians, have died in the fires, Abdulkadir Umeyrush, chief prosecutor of the judicial council of northern Tizi Ouzou province, told reporters.

Algeria has signed an aircraft leasing agreement with the European Union to support its fight against the blazes, the Algerian Prime Ministry said in a statement.

The two planes hired from the EU were previously used in firefighting operations in Greece and will be used to contain forest fires in Algeria as of Thursday, the statement said.

Early on Wednesday, Algerian state television said most of the deaths were reported in Tizi Ouzou province. According to the broadcaster, 12 hospitalized soldiers are in critical condition.

Meanwhile, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has declared three days of national mourning starting Thursday, according to a statement by the Algerian Presidency.

As many as 18 Algerian provinces have for days witnessed massive fires that were exacerbated by a severe heat wave and hot and strong southern winds.

Wildfires in Tunisia’s northern Bizerte and Jendouba provinces have destroyed 450 hectares of the country’s pine and acacia forests.

“Nine wildfires erupted in Bizerte in less than 24 hours and damaged around 50 hectares,” Brigadier Kamal El-Meliti, the director of civil protection department in the province, said.

According to El-Meliti, more than 100 hectares of forests were also damaged by the flames in Mount Nadhour in Bizerte.

Fires were also reported in Ain Drahem in Jendouba province, amid reports that around 300 hectares of forests were destroyed.

France offers support

France meanwhile has expressed solidarity with Algeria and offered support to help fight the raging fires.

“Our hearts go out to all the victims and their loved ones. France stands ready to lend its support to deal with this situation,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Twitter.

Benoit Payan, the mayor of Marseille city, also offered to dispatch a team of firefighters and equipment to the northern Kabylia region “if Algeria asks for it.”

A large number of people in France of Algerian origin reside in Marseille in the south of France. The largest share of the French immigrant population, or 13% of immigrants in France, were born in Algeria, according to France’s National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies.

French President Emmanuel Macron later announced that Paris would be sending reinforcements to help fight the wildfires in Algeria.

France will deploy two Canadair water bomber planes along with a command aircraft in Kabylia by Thursday, Macron said on Twitter, offering “unreserved solidarity” to Algerians and expressing his “full support.”

*Writing by Mahmoud Barakat and Zehra Nur Duz. Shweta Desai in Paris contributed to this report

[Photo: Smokes rise from the wildfire at Beni Douala town in Tizi Ouzou Province in northern Algeria on August 11, 2021. Photographer: Mousaab Rouibi/AA]

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