The Algerian government announced on Monday, July 24 that wildfires that have been burning across the country during a scorching heat wave have resulted in the deaths of at least 25 people and have caused widespread evacuations. More than 20 people suffered injuries as a result of the fires that raged through residential neighbourhoods, according to information from the Ministry of the Interior.
This Zbarbar native, who lives in the province of Bouira, remembers how the fire got started. According to Boualam Ferhat, the fire started just a few yards away from the military academy at approximately 2:00 p.m. “I dialled the number for the fire department and informed them that a fire had broken out in the area. They arrived half an hour later than expected, but in that time the fire had already grown significantly.“
Ali Saibi, another resident of Zbarbar, has reported that part of his home has been destroyed: “We lost my air conditioner, and my windows burned, along with many other things,” he says. “The fire began on the Tablat side of Grouma, and it quickly spread through Beni Malah on its way to Bourebach, where it completely consumed everything in its path.” There are those who have lost everything.
As temperatures in some regions of the country reached 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit), the north African nation recorded 97 fires across 16 provinces, which high winds made worse. Parts of Bejaia and Jijel, which are located in the Kabyle region east of Algiers, as well as Bouira, which is located southeast of the capital, were destroyed by the greatest and deadliest flames. On Monday, July 24, the President sent his condolences to the families of the deceased, which included both civilians and members of the armed forces.
According to the ministry of the interior, there are 7,500 firefighters and 350 fire trucks that have been mobilized to combat the fires, in addition to aircraft firefighting help. It was noted that efforts were being made to put out flames in six different provinces, and citizens were urged to “avoid areas affected by the fires” and to report any new fires using the toll-free phone numbers that were provided.
Every year, fires rage through Algeria’s forests and fields during the summer, but this year’s fires have gotten worse because of a heatwave that has caused many countries in the Mediterranean region to set new temperature records. In the El Tarf area of northeastern Algeria in August 2022, catastrophic fires claimed the lives of 37 people. The bloodiest summer in decades came before it, with 90 people losing their lives in such fires in 2021, primarily in the Kabylie region.
Temperatures on Monday came close to reaching 50 degrees Celsius in Tunisia, which is located nearby. Another fire broke out in the same region a week ago, and it has already spread to a pine forest in Tabarka, Tunisia, which is located close to the border with Algeria. The winds and the temperatures, which were getting close to 50 degrees Celsius, helped the flames spread. According to the national guard, an evacuation of at least 300 people took place from the nearby village of Melloula using both land and sea transportation.