At least 26 dead in Algeria forest fires

At least 26 people have been killed and dozens more injured in forest fires that have devastated northern Algeria.

Kamel Beldjoud, the country’s Interior Minister, said 24 died in El Tarf, near the border with Tunisia, as well as a mother and daughter in Setif.

Firefighters, supported by helicopters, were still trying to contain several blazes on Wednesday evening.

Reports say some 350 residents have been evacuated in various provinces.

The civil protection agency said that El Tarf was the worst hit area with 16 fires in progress.

The names of the mother, 58, and her 36-year-old daughter who died in Setif have not yet been released, but officials there said flames had reached dozens of homes and villages.

Northern Algeria is affected by forest fires every year, with 90 people thought to have died in them last year – and more than 100,000 hectares of woodland burnt.

Last August, Mr Beldjoud blamed a spate of fires in Algeria’s Kabyle region on arson, claiming “only criminal hands” could explain “the simultaneous outbreak of about 50 fires across several localities”.

Wednesday’s toll brings the total number of Algerians killed in wildfires this summer up to 30.

The latest blazes come during a summer which has seen a number of countries in the Mediterranean region ravaged by wildfires – particularly in Europe, with France, Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy all affected.

Just last week, more than 1,000 fire officials battled what they described as a “monster” wildfire near Bordeaux.

Wildfires are raging across Europe, where a heatwave has intensified drought conditions.

Though temperatures have cooled in France and the UK, firefighters are still tackling blazes in Greece, Spain and Italy.

The fires in France’s badly hit south-west have started to be brought under control.

And as the heatwave moves north-east, low water levels are hampering transport on rivers in Germany.

Heatwaves have become more frequent, more intense, and lasted longer because of human-induced climate change. The world has already warmed by about 1.1C since the industrial era began and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to emissions. -BBC

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