The firefighters in Algeria are trying Thursday, August 18, 2022 to control the last forest fires in the north and far east of the country in the middle of “scenes of desolation”, after violent fires who killed at least 38 people there.
the assessment of the fires of recent days has increased with 30 dead in the area of El Tarf, in the far east, near the border with Tunisiafive in Souk Ahras, two women in Sétif and one person in Guelma, in the east, according to civil protection, local journalists and Ennahar television.
In addition, more than 200 people were injured, according to local media. On the road to El Kala, near El Tarf, a city of 100,000 inhabitants, “a tornado of fire took everything away in seconds, most of the dead were surrounded while visiting an animal park”, described toAFP a local journalist.
Of the 39 fires that ravaged 14 wilayas (departments) in the north of the country, a certain number were still in progress on Thursday August 18 and the authorities fear fire starts due to gusts of wind.
Water bomber helicopters from civil protection and the army intervened in several towns.
More and more forest fires because of climate change
Algeria has chartered a Russian Beriev BE 200 water bomber plane, but after responding to various fires, it suffered a breakdown and will not be operational again until Saturday, August 20, said the Minister of l ‘Interior, Kamel Beldjoud, Wednesday evening August 17.
Prime Minister Ayman Benabderrahmane arrived Thursday morning August 18 in El Tarf, according to television. The gendarmerie has closed several national roads because of the fires.
In Souk Ahras, near the Tunisian border, a major fire was still going on Thursday morning August 18 in the mountainous area of Djebel Oued Chouk, according to a local journalist reached by telephone by theAFP. He spoke of scenes of panic on Wednesday August 17 in this city of 500,000 inhabitants.
According to this journalist, 97 women and 17 newborns who were in a hospital near a forest area had to be evacuated. Television footage showed residents running from their burning homes, women carrying their children in their arms. More than 350 families had to leave their homes.
Each year, the north of Algeria is affected by forest fires, but this phenomenon is accentuated from year to year under the effect of climate change. It was around 48 degrees on Wednesday August 17 in El Tarf, Guelma and Souk Ahras.
The summer of 2021 was the deadliest since Algerian independence: at least 90 people died in forest fires that ravaged the North, where more than 100,000 hectares of copses went up in smoke.
Global warming increases the likelihood of heat waves and droughts and, by extension, fires.
A lack of equipment to fight fires?
Since the beginning of August 2022, 106 fires have broken out in Algeria, destroying 800 hectares of forest and 1,800 hectares of coppice, said the Minister of the Interior.
These fires rekindle wounds and the debate on the absence of water bomber planes in sufficient numbers, which had already agitated the country last summer after deadly fires.
During an Algerian-Canadian seminar on the fight against forest fires, specialists had recommended in May “the establishment of a national control system at least equivalent to that which existed in the 1980s! », indicated to theAFP on condition of anonymity an expert who took part in the start.
At the time, “the DTA (aerial work directorate) had 22 Grumman-type aircraft which were the pride of Algeria, particularly in the fight against forest fires”, added the expert, according to which the devices “were sold at the symbolic dinar without any alternative solution being offered”.
“Some of these fires were started,” said Kamel Beldjoud.
The largest country in Africa, Algeria has only 4.1 million hectares of forest, with a meager reforestation rate of 1.76%.