Wildfires have killed at least 42 people and injured dozens more across northern Algeria, with the fires continuing to rage in several areas. Summer 2022 temperatures in much of North Africa have exceeded 40C every day for months.
Indeed the record heatwave in Europe was caused by a stream of hot air escaping from the Sahara for weeks on end. El Tarf, the small coastal province, where most died, is famed for its beautiful forests, mountains and beaches.
The blazes on Wednesday ravaged 14 of Algeria’s provinces, with residents having previously complained of a lack of government support and readiness during its annual, and deadly, wildfire season.
Most of the victims were reported in El Tarf province, near the northern Algeria-Tunisian border, where 34 people were found dead.
The death toll included a family of five found in their home and eight people on a public bus whose driver was surprised by flames while traveling in a mountainous region.
“Most of the victims in El Tarf are vacationers who came to enjoy paradisiacal beaches and enchanting landscapes,” Prime Minister Aïmene Benabderrahmane said.
He and several government members arrived in El Tarf on Thursday. The prime minister said the Algerian state would support the victims’ families and pay for renovation work and compensation for the loss of livestock and beehives. The region is also known for its farming industry.
One person died in Souk Ahras, south of El Tarf. Two other people died in the region of Setif, about 300 kilometers (185 miles) east of Algiers, the North African nation’s capital.
At least 200 more people have suffered burns or respiratory problems, according to various Algerian media.
Algerian television showed people fleeing their burning homes, women carrying children in their arms.
People were also seen fleeing in Souk Ahras province, which also borders Tunisia, with local media reporting that 350 residents had been evacuated.
The fire service said Thursday afternoon that 1,700 firefighters had been deployed to battle the fires, of which 24 were still raging.
Earlier, Algerian Interior Minister Kamel Beldjoud said 39 fires broke out in 14 regions on Wednesday alone and that blazes have ravaged 3,200 hectares (over 12 square miles) of forests and brush since the beginning of August.