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Dozens dead, hundreds evacuated as wildfires rage in Algeria

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(NEW YORK) — At least 34 people have died and thousands more have been forced to evacuate as authorities battle raging wildfires in Northern Algeria, Algeria’s Interior Ministry announced.

At least 8,000 firefighters, 529 trucks and 10 mobile columns and aerial support teams are working to fight the wildfires — the largest and worst of which are in Algeria’s coastal provinces of Béjaïa, Bouïra and Jijel, east of Algiers.

Fanned by high temperatures and strong winds, the wildfires — which have been burning for several days — have spread across forests and agricultural areas in a total of 16 Provinces and Civil Protection services have recorded 97 blazes across the African nation.

Among those killed include 10 soldiers from the People’s National Army (ANP) who were fighting the flames, Algeria’s Defence Ministry announced.

At least 1,500 people have been evacuated thus far, Algeria’s Interior Ministry announced.

Algeria’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has urged vigilance, calling on citizens to avoid going to forest areas as firefighting and rescue operations continue.

“Given the record and significant rise in temperature and forest fires recorded in certain Wilayas [provinces] of the country, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development calls on all citizens, both those living near forests and city dwellers, to avoid going to forests, especially in these abnormal climatic conditions,” Algeria’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said.

In neighboring Tunisia, authorities have also evacuated 2,500 people from the border town of Maloula as wildfires rapidly spread from Algeria across the border.

Algeria is in the midst of a scorching summer, recording temperatures as high as 48 degrees Celsius (118 Fahrenheit) in parts of the country on Monday. The region is also susceptible to summer wildfires. Last summer, the Algerian Red Crescent announced at least 43 people were killed and 200 injured in fires that occurred in forest and urban areas.

“Algeria is affected by forest fires that occur every summer, but the rate of being affected by fires increases from year to year due to climate change that causes drought and heat waves,” said the Algerian Red Crescent Society.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune offered condolences to families of the victims of the fires.

“In front of this great affliction, I express to the families of the victims my deepest condolences and sincere feelings of sympathy,” he said in a statement.

Algerian authorities have announced firefighting and rescue operations are continuing in affected areas despite “difficult weather conditions” and “record rise in temperature,” remaining mobilized until fires are completely extinguished.

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