The East African country has arrested 22 people suspected of being behind the most devastating wildfires in the country’s history that killed 69 people, injured over 1000 and displaced 600.
Forest fires have hit mountainous areas in northern Algeria since Monday, mainly in Tizi Ouzou of the Kabylie region east of the country’s capital, Algiers.
Algeria’s President, Abdelmadjid Tebboune told citizens that several persons were suspected to be directly involved with the fire outbreak and that his government had arrested 22 people who would face justice if found guilty.
“We have arrested 22 suspects, including 11 in Tizi Ouzou. Justice will perform its duty.” Tebboune shared.
Algerian authorities have struggled to contain the fires which have since spread to several other provinces.
“The government did send out several different helicopters to fight these fires but these helicopters are only equipped with Bambi buckets which have a capacity of a thousand litres,” said Maher Mezahi, a journalist in Tizi Ouzou.
“They’ve called on the European Union to send over some firefighting aircraft. France sent over two yesterday and those have a capacity of six to seven thousand litres and they’ve been a lot more effective in fighting these fires that are in very difficult places.”
Tebboune said two other planes from Spain were expected on Friday and another from Switzerland on Saturday.
Tebboune said a “solidarity fund” will provide some financial aid to families affected by the fires, which have destroyed homes, olive groves and animals that provide livelihoods in the region.
Prime Minister Aimene Benabderrahmane, who visited Tizi Ouzou on Thursday, the regional capital of Kabylie, said “for the moment, the most important is to extinguish [the fires] and above all, to take care of the population”.
Like southern Europe, North Africa has been sweltering under searing heat. Temperatures hit 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in Tunisia, a record high for the country. The last previous high was 48.2C (119F) in 1968.
Algeria’s National Meteorological Office said extremely hot weather was forecast through Thursday in nearly a dozen regions, including around Tizi Ouzou. In some places, the temperature was expected to hit 47C (116.6 F.)
Climate scientists say there is little doubt climate change from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is driving extreme events such as heatwaves, droughts and wildfires, which they say are likely to happen more frequently as Earth warms.