Wildfires in the forested mountains of northern Algeria have killed at least 65 people since Monday, according to Algerian state media, the latest blazes to erupt around the Mediterranean during an intense heat wave that has also helped ignite deadly fires in Greece and Turkey.
Though the army has been deployed to help fight the fires, local media reported that at least 86 blazes had yet to be contained across 17 different provinces of the country. Wednesday’s updated death toll, was up from 42 soldiers and civilians on Tuesday. Among the dead are 28 soldiers involved in the firefighting effort.
President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has announced three days of national mourning for the dead. Algerian media broadcast images of an outpouring of solidarity with the affected regions, showing crowds of citizens who traveled to towns and cities where fires had broken out to offer help.
The government claimed on Tuesday, without showing any evidence, that the fires were the work of arsonists, and the authorities said they had arrested and were interrogating three people in connection with the fires in cities including Medea and Annaba.
But Algeria has been suffering through a heat wave with high winds, similar to the situation across the northern Mediterranean that helped intensify the wildfires in other parts of Europe.
Temperatures in Tizi Ouzou, the worst-hit area so far in this week’s fires, where most of the deaths have occurred, were forecast to hit 116 degrees Fahrenheit this week.
The blazes first began in the mountain forests and villages east of Algiers, the capital, on Monday, and spread across the country’s Berber region, ravaging homes, orchards and livestock.