(Algiers) Firefighters, soldiers and volunteers continued on Saturday to put out the recent forest fires in northern Algeria, which have killed around 90 people, including 33 soldiers, since Monday, according to reports from local authorities.
Posted on Aug 14, 2021 at 3:26 pm
Amal BELALLOUFI, with Philippe AGRET in Paris Agence France-Presse
According to Algerian leaders, most of these fires are “criminal” in origin and arsonists have been arrested.
However, experts and witnesses point to the lack of anticipation and prevention on the part of the authorities in the face of an annually recurring phenomenon in Algeria.
In addition, these forest fires are currently exacerbated by extreme heat.
The Ministry of Defense organized two ceremonies on Saturday in honor of the 33 soldiers who died fighting the flames, one at the Algiers Military Hospital in the presence of Chief of Staff Saïd Chenegriha and the other in Constantine (northeast).
“These heroes sacrificed their souls for their homeland and to save their fellow citizens from the arson attacks in various regions of our country,” said General Boualem Madi, Director of Defense Communications, during a funeral speech on the third and last day of national mourning.
President Abdelmadjid Tebboune visited the wounded, civilians and soldiers hospitalized in Algiers on Saturday and promised them that he would use all means necessary to provide them with care.
In the absence of a new official global report, reports from local authorities, civil protection and the Department of Defense show a total of around 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 worst affected region. “Nine fires under control in 4 wilayas,” the same source said in a tweet.
A hundred fires were found across the country on Thursday.
“The Air Group of Civil Protection and Army helicopters carried out 235 water bombardments, not to mention 172 water bomber operations in Tizi-Ouzou, Béjaïa and Jijel,” said the civil defense.
Two French depth bombers – provided by Paris via the European Union (EU) – and a liaison aircraft intervened massively in Kabylia on Thursday and Friday.
A Spanish water bomber arrived on Saturday and a second is expected in the next few hours, according to the official APS agency.
According to Tebboune, a third device will soon be deployed from Switzerland.
In the past 24 hours, a total of 43 houses in 20 prefectures have been deleted.
Almost 7,500 civil protection forces are deployed with 490 fire engines and three helicopters.
Five heavy MI-26 helicopters of Russian origin were also mobilized by the army.
According to the specialized website Mena Defense, the Algerian army intends to buy eight Russian Beriev Be-200 depth bombers. Three of them should arrive in Algiers on Saturday, according to local media.
According to Algeria, Russia has offered to provide four water bomber planes. They should arrive on site “in the next few hours”.
In the face of the tragedy, the solidarity gestures of civil society are being manifested on the ground and international aid is being organized.
“We get help from everywhere. I’ve seen trucks and delivery vans from all over Algeria, ”enthuses a young volunteer, quoted by the French-language daily Liberté.
Weather services predict temperatures of up to 48 degrees in a country that is already suffering from water stress.
Algeria, the largest country in Africa, has only 4.1 million hectares of forest with a meager afforestation rate of 1.76%.
The north of the country is hit by forest fires every year. In 2020, almost 44,000 hectares of coppice forest went up in smoke.
The increasing fires around the world are associated with various phenomena expected by scientists due to global warming.