Algeria Fires Fanned By Winds, Extreme Heat Kill 34
Algiers, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 25th Jul, 2023 ) :Wildfires raging across Algeria during a blistering heatwave have killed more than 30 people and forced mass evacuations, the government said on Monday.
As temperatures hit 48 degrees Celsius (118 Fahrenheit) in parts of the North African country, it recorded 97 blazes across 16 provinces, fanned by strong winds, said the interior ministry.
According to that initial toll, at least 26 people were also injured.
The three provinces in Algeria's Mediterranean coastal region have seen the worst of the fires.
President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Monday expressed his condolences to the families of the deceased.
The interior ministry said that 7,500 firefighters and 350 firetrucks were mobilised with aerial support to fight the flames.
Operations were underway to extinguish fires in six provinces, it added, calling on citizens to "avoid areas affected by the fires" and to report new blazes on toll-free phone numbers.
"Civil protection services remain mobilised until the fires are completely extinguished," the ministry said.
The Bejaia prosecutor's office has ordered a preliminary probe to identify the causes of the blazes and potential perpetrators, it said in a statement.
In the northeastern province of Tizi Ouzou, 15 fires were extinguished late Sunday, according to civil protection forces.
Fires regularly rage through forests and fields in Algeria in summer, and this year have been exacerbated by a heatwave that has seen several Mediterranean countries break temperature records.
- Mediterranean heatwave - In neighbouring Tunisia, temperatures on Monday neared 50 degrees Celsius.
Tunisia's state energy supplier STEG announced planned half-hour to one-hour power cuts in a bid to preserve the network's performance.
At least 300 people were evacuated by sea and by land from the village of Melloula, according to the national guard.
AFP journalists saw extensive damage near the town of Nefza, about 150 kilometres (90 miles) west of Tunis.
It was preceded by the deadliest summer in decades, with 90 people killed in such fires in 2021, particularly in the Kabylie region.
In a bid to avoid a repeat of previous years' death tolls, the authorities had announced a series of measures in the months leading up to peak summer heat.
Tebboune in April announced the acquisition of six medium-sized water-bombing aircraft.
This was followed by the interior ministry similarly announcing the imminent acquisition of one such aircraft and the leasing of six others the following month.
Also in May, authorities said they were preparing for wildfires by constructing landing strips for helicopters and fire-fighting drones.
Scientists rank the Mediterranean region as a climate-change "hot spot", with the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warning of more heatwaves, crop failures, droughts, rising seas, and influxes of invasive species.