Monday, September 26, 2022

At least 32 killed in wildfire in Algeria

The Associated Press

ALGIERS, Algeria – At least 25 Algerian soldiers have died while rescuing residents from wildfires that ravaged mountain forests and villages east of the capital, with the president announcing Tuesday night that the death toll from the blaze was at least has reduced to 32.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune tweeted that troops rescued 100 civilians from fire in two areas of Kabyle, the region that is home to the North African country’s Berber population. The Defense Ministry said eleven soldiers were burned while fighting the fire, four of whom were in critical condition.

The Kabyle region, 100 kilometers (60 mi) east of Algiers, the capital of Algeria, is dotted with hard-to-reach villages and has limited water. Some villagers were on the run, while others tried to put out the flames themselves, using buckets, branches and rudimentary tools. There is no water-dumping aircraft in this area.

Deaths and injuries on Tuesday occurred around the Kabyle capital of Tizi-Ozhou, which is surrounded by mountains, and in Bejia, which borders the Mediterranean Sea.

Prime Minister Amen Benabdar Rahman told state television that the fires in Kabyle were “highly synchronized”, adding that it “leads to believe that these were criminal acts.” Earlier, Interior Minister Kamel Beldjoud visited Kabyle to assess the situation and also attributed some of the fire to the arson.

“Thirty fires in the same area at the same time may not have happened by chance, although no arrests were announced,” Beljoud said on national television.

There was no immediate detail to explain the high death rate among the military. A photo featured on the Liberte daily showed a soldier with a brush cleaning a shovel, his automatic weapon hanging over his shoulder.

Dozens of flames erupted in Kabyle and elsewhere on Monday, and Algerian authorities sent troops to help civilians fight and evacuate. Several fires were burning through the forests and devouring the olive groves, cattle and chickens that provided the livelihood of the families in the Kabyle area.

The civil protection authority said on Algerian radio that seven people had died, six in Kabyle and one man in his 80s trying to save his animals in the Setif region in the east. This counted 41 blasts in 18 villas or areas as of Monday night, of which 21 were burning around Tizi Ozhou.

Online media outlet TSA said earlier on Tuesday that 11 people had died in the fire, including those in Kabyle.

A 92-year-old woman living in the Kabyle mountain village of Ait Sada said Monday night’s scene looked like the “end of the world”.

“We were scared,” Fatima Oudia told the Associated Press. “The whole hill had turned into a huge fire.”

Oudia compared the scene to the bombings carried out by French soldiers during Algeria’s brutal war of independence, which ended in 1962.

“This burnt forest. It is a part of me that is gone,” said Aadia. “It is a play for nature, for humanity. It’s a disaster.”

Nation World News Desk
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