Algeria blames forest fires on arson, death toll rises to six

A civil protection rescue worker walks near smoke rising from a forest fire in the mountainous Tizi Ouzou province, east of Algiers, Algeria August 10, 2021. REUTERS/Abdelaziz Boumzar

ALGIERS (Reuters) – Algeria’s government on Tuesday said arsonists were responsible for dozens of forest fires that have killed six people and destroyed homes east of the capital.

Plumes of smoke rose from pockets of fire in the forest in Tizi Ouzou region on Tuesday, while residents used tree branches and hurled water from plastic containers in an attempt to put out the flames however they could.

Several houses were burnt and families were escaping to hotels and youth hostels, witnesses said, as the dense smoke hampered the visibility of fire crews.

“We had a horror night. My house is completely burnt,” said Mohamed Kaci, who had fled from Azazga village to a hotel with his family.

Interior Minister Kamel Beldjoud said an investigation would be launched to identify those behind the blazes as he put the death toll at six.

“Only criminal hands can be behind the simultaneous outbreak of about 50 fires across several localities of the province,” he said on state television.

Firefighters and the army were still trying to contain the blazes, and Beldjoud said the priority was to avoid more victims. He vowed to compensate those affected.

Smaller fires were also ravaging forests in at least 13 provinces since Monday night.

(Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed and Abdelaziz Boumzar; Editing by Alison Williams)

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