ALGIERS (AFP) – The death toll climbed to at least 43 from wildfires that have raged for days in northern Algeria, with numbers expected to rise further, the gendarmerie said yesterday.
Thirteen people have been arrested over suspicion of involvement in starting the fires, it added.
“The latest toll of victims from the fires increased to 43,” from 38 recorded two days earlier, the gendarmerie command said on state radio. Fires had swept through 14 wilayas, or administrative councils, in the north of the country, with most concentrated in the northeastern El Tarf region near the border with Tunisia.
The gendarmerie, which operates under the Defence Ministry, added that they are still working on identifying the bodies of the victims.
The death toll is expected to increase, it said, despite earlier reports that the fires had mostly been contained.
Civil protection services said some 31 fires were put out in various parts of the North African country between Saturday and Sunday. Over 1,000 families were evacuated from various districts over the past few days, the civil defence’s Colonel Boualem Boughlef said
The fires, which have become a yearly fixture due to climate change, have devastated thousands of hectares of woodland in the mostly-desert country.
Fires last year killed at least 90 people and seared 100,000 hectares of forest and farmland in the north.