President Abdelmadjid Tebboune tweeted Tuesday evening that soldiers had rescued 100 citizens from fires in two areas of the mountainous region of Kabylia, homeland of the Berbers. Four other soldiers were badly burned while fighting the fires and seven others were also burned, the National Defense Ministry said.
The Interior Ministry said earlier that the fires had killed at least seven civilians.
Dozens of fires broke out in Kabylia and elsewhere on Monday, and Algerian authorities sent the military to help citizens fight the fires and evacuate.
Multiple fires have burned forests and devoured olive trees, cattle and chickens that support families in the Kabylie region.
Interior Minister Kamel Beldjoud visited Kabylia to assess the situation.
“Only criminal hands can be at the origin of the simultaneous outbreak of fifty fires in several localities of the province,” the minister said on state television, appearing to suggest an arson attack.
“Thirty fires at the same time in the same region cannot be due to chance,” Beldjoud said on national television, although no arrests have been announced.
Other regions of northern Algeria have also experienced active forest fires. Civil protection told Algerian radio that seven people had died, six in Kabylia and a man in his forties while trying to save his animals in the Sétif region in the east.
There were 41 fires in 18 wilayas, or regions, Monday evening, including 21 around the Kabyle capital of Tizi Ouzou.
Online media TSA said up to 11 people were killed in the fires, including those in Kabylia. Many started on Monday, spurred on by high temperatures and wind.
“Part of me is gone”
A 92-year-old woman living in the Kabyle mountain village of Ait Saada said Monday night’s scene looked like “the end of the world”.
“We were scared,” Fatima Aoudia told the Associated Press news agency. “The whole hill has been turned into a giant fire. “
Like other elderly people cited by Algerian media, Aoudia compared the scene to the bombing of French troops during Algeria’s brutal war of independence, which ended in 1962.
“These forests have burned down. It’s a part of me that’s gone, ”Aoudia said. “It is a tragedy for humanity, for nature. It’s a catastrophe. “
The defense ministry said on Tuesday that soldiers had been sent to four regions, including Kabylia, the day before to help fight the blaze and evacuate trapped residents. Bulldozers were brought in to cut fire breaks in the thick forests.
Climatologists said there was no doubt that climate change due to the burning of coal, oil and natural gas caused extreme events, such as heat waves, droughts, fires. of forest, floods and storms.
Worsening drought and heat – both linked to climate change – are causing wildfires in the western United States and Siberia. Extreme heat is also fueling massive fires in Greece and Turkey.
The Kabyle region, 100 km east of Algiers, the Algerian capital, is dotted with villages that are difficult to access and water is lacking during the hot season.