At least 65 killed in Algerian wildfires

Burnt trees are seen following a wildfire in Zekri, in the mountainous Kabylie region of Tizi Ouzou, east of Algiers, Algeria August 11, 2021. REUTERS/Abdelaziz Boumzar

ALGIERS (Reuters) -Wildfires tearing through forested areas of northern Algeria have killed at least 65 people, state television reported on Wednesday, as some of the most destructive blazes in the country’s history continued to rage.

The government has deployed the army to help fight the fires, which have burnt most fiercely in the mountainous Kabylie region, and 28 of the dead are soldiers, with another 12 critically injured with burns.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared three days of national mourning for the dead and froze state activities not related to the fires.

Forest fires have set large parts of Algeria, Turkey and Greece aflame over the past week and a European Union atmosphere monitor said the Mediterranean had become a wildfire hotspot aided by increasingly hot weather.

Dozens of separate fires have raged through forest areas across northern Algeria since Monday and on Tuesday Interior Minister Kamel Beldjoud accused arsonists of igniting the flames, without providing any evidence.

The worst hit area has been Tizi Ouzou, the largest district of the Kabylie region, where houses have burned and residents fled to shelter in hotels, hostels and university accommodation in nearby towns.

The government has said it will compensate those affected.

(Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed, Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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