Wildfires tearing through forested areas of northern Algeria have killed at least 65 people, state television reported on Wednesday, as some of the most destructive blazes in the country’s history continued to rage.
Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune had announced on Tuesday that 25 soldiers were killed saving residents from the wildfires ravaging forests and villages east of the capital.
Tebboune tweeted late on Tuesday that the soldiers saved 100 citizens from the blazes in two areas in the mountainous Kabylie region.
The death toll later rose to 42 and the government deployed the army to help fight the fires, which have burnt most fiercely in the mountainous Kabylie region. 28 of the dead were soldiers, with another 12 critically injured with burns.
The Algerian president declared three days of national mourning for the dead and froze state activities not related to the fires.
Forest fires have set large parts of Algeria, Turkey, and Greece aflame over the past week and a European Union atmosphere monitor said the Mediterranean had become a wildfire hotspot aided by increasingly hot weather.
Dozens of separate fires have raged through forest areas across northern Algeria since Monday and on Tuesday Interior Minister Kamel Beldjoud accused arsonists of igniting the flames, without providing any evidence.
The worst-hit area has been Tizi Ouzou, the largest district of the Kabylie region, where houses have burned and residents fled to shelter in hotels, hostels, and university accommodation in nearby towns.
The government has said it will compensate those affected.