Firefighters, soldiers and volunteers continue on Saturday to extinguish the last forest fires ravaging northern Algeria. Fires that have killed some 90 people since Monday, including 33 soldiers, according to reports from local authorities.

All the people mobilized to fight the forest fires in Algeria  continued, Saturday, August 14, to extinguish the latest fires raging in the north of the country . They have killed some 90 people since Monday, including 33 soldiers, according to reports from local authorities.

According to Algerian leaders, these fires are mostly of “criminal” origin and arsonists have been arrested.

Experts and witnesses nevertheless point to the lack of anticipation and prevention of the public authorities in the face of a recurring phenomenon every year in Algeria. In addition, these forest fires are currently intensified by extreme heat.   

The Ministry of Defense organized, on Saturday, two ceremonies to honor the 33 soldiers who perished while fighting against the flames, one at the military hospital of Algiers, in the presence of the chief of staff, and the ‘other in Constantine (northeast).

“These heroes sacrificed their souls for the homeland and to save their fellow citizens from the arson attacks in different regions of our country”, declared General Boualem Madi, Director of Defense Communication during a funeral oration, on the third and last day of national mourning.

Some 29 fires in progress

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune visited on Saturday the wounded, civilians and soldiers, hospitalized in Algiers, promising them to implement all the necessary means for their care.

In the absence of a new official global report, the reports reported by local authorities, Civil Protection and the Ministry of Defense show a total of some 90 deaths since Monday. 

“Civil Protection teams are currently working to extinguish 29 fires across 13 wilayas [prefectures]”, particularly in Tizi Ouzou, Jijel and Bejaïa, in Kabylia, a statement said. A hundred fires had been identified Thursday across the country.

“The helicopters of the Air Group of Civil Protection and the Army carried out 235 water bombardment operations, not to mention 172 operations by water bombers in Tizi-Ouzou, Béjaïa and Jijel”, added the Civil Protection .

Two French water bombers – made available by Paris via the European Union – as well as a liaison aircraft, intervened massively Thursday and Friday in Kabylia.

A Spanish water bomber arrived on Saturday and a second is expected in the next few hours, according to the official APS agency. A third device should be deployed soon from Switzerland, according to Abdelmajid Tebboune.

“We get help from everywhere”

A total of 43 homes have been extinguished across 20 prefectures in the past 24 hours. Nearly 7,500 Civil Protection agents are deployed with 490 fire fighting vans and three helicopters.

Five heavy MI-26 helicopters, of Russian origin, were also mobilized by the army. According to the specialized site Mena Defense, the Algerian army intends to buy eight Russian water bombers Beriev Be-200. Three of them were due to arrive in Algiers on Saturday, according to local media.

Russia has offered to make four water bomber planes available to Algeria, according to APS, which explains that “due to the lack of overflight permits from Greece and Cyprus”, their arrival was delayed. They should arrive on site “in the next few hours”.

The largest country in Africa, Algeria has only 4.1 million hectares of forests, with a meager reforestation rate of 1.76%. Every year, the north of the country is affected by forest fires. In 2020, nearly 44,000 hectares of coppice went up in smoke.

The fires that are increasing across the globe are associated with various phenomena anticipated by scientists due to global warming.