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North Africa heatwave: Wildfires kill dozens and force over 1,500 people to evacuate

Amar Belkati, a 57-year-old farmer, carries his child as he stands near a burnt area following a wildfire in Bejaia, Algeria, 25 July.
Amar Belkati, a 57-year-old farmer, carries his child as he stands near a burnt area following a wildfire in Bejaia, Algeria, 25 July. Copyright REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina
Copyright REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina
By Daniel Harper with AP
Published on Updated
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Thousands of firefighters have been mobilised to tackle the wildfires that have led to mass evacuations across the region.

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Wildfires spreading through Algeria have left 30 dead and forced the evacuation of hundreds of people from their homes.

It comes as temperatures reached 48C in parts of north Africa on Monday.

The Algerian Interior Ministry has recorded 97 blazes over 16 provinces, all made more extreme by fierce winds and continued extreme heat.

Among the casualties are 10 soldiers who died battling the flames. At least 26 other civilians have been injured as the fire has torn through populated residential areas.

“It started to burn at around 2pm, just down from the military school," Boualam Ferhat, a Bouira province resident told Africanews, Euronews’s sister channel.

"I called the fire brigade, and I told them that the fire had started nearby. They got there half an hour later but in the meantime the fire had really spread."

Where are evacuations happening in Algeria?

Around 1,500 people have been evacuated from the Bejaia, Bouira and Jijel provinces east of the capital Algiers.

Across the country efforts have been made to control the spread of the flames with a national operation involving 7,500 firefighters and 350 trucks along with aerial support.

"Civil protection services remain mobilised until the fires are completely extinguished," the Interior Ministry has said.

Tunisia is also evacuating people from the wildfires

SAMMOUD HAITHEM/REUTERS
Smoke rises from a wildfire in Tabarka, Tunisia, 24 July.SAMMOUD HAITHEM/REUTERS

Fires in pine forests in Tunisia near its border with Algeria have forced at least 300 people to be evacuated by sea and by land, with temperatures nearing 50C.

AFP journalists reportedly saw extensive damage near the town of Nefza, about 150 kilometres west of the country’s capital, Tunis.

During another fire last week, a border crossing had to close temporarily after 470 hectares of forest had been burned, according to Tunisian officials.

Among Tunisia and Algeria it is increasingly common for fires to break out in the hottest months of the summer. 37 people were killed in Algeria’s northeastern El Tarf province last August.

2021 saw Algeria’s deadliest summer in decades when 90 people died because of fires.

Other north African countries such as Morocco and Libya have been experiencing comparatively average temperatures.

Heatwaves continue to hit the Mediterranean

As heatwaves grip much of southern Europe, as well as Mediterranean adjacent countries, fires continue to engulf places such as the Greek islands of Corfu and Rhodes where thousands are being evacuated.

In Sicily, temperatures have reached over 47C, with hospital admissions increasing by 20 per cent.

Record breaking temperatures across the continent have left the land dry and susceptible to wildfires, with almost half of the EU at risk of severe drought.

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