Dozens of deadly fires devour Algeria’s northern forests

Algeria; Forest Fire; Climate Change

Firefighters and residents armed with simple tools are battling a rash of forest fires in northern Algeria that the nation’s interior minister said have killed at least six people in the mountainous Kabyle region.

Multiple fires are burning through forests and devouring the olive trees, cattle and chickens that provide the livelihoods of families.

Interior minister Kamel Beldjoud travelled to Kabyle, home of Berbers, to assess the situation.

“Thirty fires at the same time in the same region can’t be by chance,” he said on national television, blaming “criminal hands” for some of the blazes.

Other areas of Algeria also have active wildfires. The Civil Protection authority said seven people had died, six in Kabyle. It counted 41 blazes in 18 regions on Monday night, with 21 around the Kabyle capital of Tizi Ouzou.

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

A 92-year-old woman living in the Kabyle mountain village of Ait Saada said the scene on 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.”

She compared the scene to bombings by the French military during the independence war which ended in 1962.

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

The Kabyle region, 60 miles east of Algeria’s capital, 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 using buckets, branches and other means. The region has no water-dumping planes.

A Civil Protection ambulance driver told AP that the death toll in Kabyle was higher than the six cited by the interior minister.

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

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