News24

Wildfire ravages 20 000ha in Algeria

2012-08-14 22:41

Algiers - Wildfires have devastated 20 000ha of Algerian land since June, the head of the forestry department said on Tuesday, blaming a heatwave that has also seen vast swathes of Spanish woodland burn.

"At the moment, there are 115 fires burning. We are experiencing exceptionally hot conditions," Mohamed Seghir Noual told a news conference.

"We have recorded 20 000haof land burnt."

The weather conditions, and the ongoing heatwave in particular, were the principal reason for the forest fires, Noual said, adding that the security forces would investigate every fire to see if criminal activity was involved.

Noual said some of the fires were man-made but most of them were the result of carelessness.

The emergency services' spokesperson, Farouk Achour, said "important means had mobilised" to put out the flames, including the deployment of around 14 000 firemen.

A firefighter and a forest worker were burned to death last week while battling a fire in Souk Ahras, around 600km southeast of the capital.

Algeria, the largest country in Africa, has an estimated 4.5 million ha of woodland, most of which consists of pine and cork oak trees.

Earlier reports have said that the areas worst affected by the fires, which have also destroyed fruit trees and cereal crops, were the eastern region of Constantine and the western province of Sidi Belabbes.

The government in Spain, where a forest fire near the southeastern city of Alicante killed two members of the emergency team battling the blaze at the weekend, has said 132 300ha of land have been burnt this year.