Toxic smoke, raging blazes rip through Morocco

Wildfires have swept across parts of northern Morocco in the last few days, in the forests of Taza, Tetouan and Larache, leading to scenes of raging infernos and plumes of thick smoke.

The ferocious blazes have been blamed on soaring temperatures reaching around 45C and droughts.

At least one person died and more than 1,000 families in affected areas were evacuated, according to AFP news agency.

The person suffered “multiple burns” in Larache, AFP quoted authorities as saying.

Firefighters have been battling to put out the flames using aircraft. The fires have been exacerbated by forceful winds.

Rescue workers have been dropping large amounts of water over the areas aflame.

The forest areas which were hit were in parts of the country that were hard to reach, said Fouad Assali, head of the National Centre for Forest Climate Risk Management.

Fire rescue services were still working hard to put out the blazes.

“Efforts are continuing in the hope of bringing these fires under control,” Mr Assali was quoted as saying.

Locals in the city of Ksar el-Kebir were pictured seeking shelter from the smoke and blaze in cars, as well as driving on nearby roads.

One resident of Larache said the hot weather was to blame.

“It is the heat that causes this kind of fire. It was yesterday at dawn that the fire reached our village,” Ahmed Mezouar, 58, said.

“We are afraid for our houses,” he continued, but said he was safe for now.

Another man told how he had reached safety.

“I was with my family, and at one point, we heard people shouting, ‘Fire! Fire!'” Samir Boundad from Larachesaid.

“We ran out to flee and fortunately, thanks to God, the fire moved up the mountain.”

Climate change increases the risk of the hot, dry weather that was likely to fuel wildfires.

This summer wildfires have also been raging in Portugal, Spain, France, Turkey and the UK.

Recent heatwaves and wildfires around the world have caused alarm – with warnings that parts of Europe and North America could be experiencing the worst fire season ever. But experts were warning it was still very earlyin what was looking like an exceptionally dry and long fire season. -AFP

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