The fires that ravaged wooded and urban areas in northeastern Algeria on Wednesday and Thursday, killing at least 38 people, have all been brought under control, a Civil Protection official told AFP on Friday August 19.

“All the fires are completely under control,” said firefighter colonel Farouk Achour, deputy director of information and statistics at Civil Protection.

The provisional official toll is 37 dead: 30 victims – including 11 children and six women – in El Tarf near the border with Tunisia, five in Souk Ahras and two in Sétif.

But several media have reported a 38th victim, a 72-year-old man who died in Guelma.

For 48 hours, more than 1,700 firefighters fought to put out more than 20 forest fires which injured around 200 people, some of them seriously burned.

Hundreds of hectares went up in smoke in August

The Department of Justice has opened an investigation to determine if some of the fires were of arson.

The prosecution of Souk Ahras, where an entire family perished in the flames, announced the arrest of an arsonist in a forest near this city of 500,000 inhabitants.

More than 350 families fled their homes and a hospital near a wooded area had to be evacuated.

Three men were also arrested by the gendarmerie near El Tarf, about 200 km away.

They are accused of having set fire to the crops of a neighbor, without the authorities having made the link for the moment with the fires in the region.

Experts have criticized shortcomings in the firefighting system, including a lack of water bomber planes and poorly maintained forests.

Since the beginning of August, there have been nearly 150 fires in Algeria, which have destroyed hundreds of hectares of forests and copses.

Every summer, the north of the country is affected by forest fires but this phenomenon is accentuated from year to year under the effect of climate change, which results in droughts and heat waves.

>> To read also: "Weather: global warming and the mechanics of the extreme"

The summer of 2021 has so far been the deadliest in modern Algerian history: more than 90 people died in forest fires that devastated the North, where more than 100,000 hectares of coppice had gone up in smoke.

With AFP

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