Morocco fights forest fires as situation in Algeria brought ‘under control’

16 August 2021

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MOROCCO/ALGERIA – Firefighters in northern Morocco are battling to put out two forest blazes, as the north African kingdom swelters in a heatwave. Most of the forest fires that have hit neighbouring Algeria in the past week are now “under control” and no longer endanger residents, according to emergency services.

“Non-stop efforts are underway to control the fires which broke out on Saturday afternoon,” said Rachid El-Anzi, director of the Moroccan water and forestry department in the Chefchaouen region.

He said firefighting planes were being used to tackle the conflagrations which had already destroyed some 200 hectares of forest.

Several parts of the north African kingdom have recorded temperatures of up to 49°C, according to weather authorities.

“There have been no victims, as priority has been given to preventing fires approaching residential areas,” El-Anzi said.

He added that the cause of the fires was not known, but that they had been spurred by high temperatures and strong winds, which are expected to last into Monday.

Morocco joins several other Mediterranean countries that have seen forest fires in recent weeks, including neighbouring Algeria where at least 90 people were killed in wildfires last week.

Algeria police arrest 36 after ‘arsonist’ lynching

Police in Algeria have meanwhile arrested 36 people, including three women, following the lynching of a man suspected of having started one of the country’s forest fires.

Authorities have repeatedly blamed “criminals” for the outbreaks.

“A preliminary enquiry… into the homicide, lynching, immolation and mutilation… of Djamel Ben Ismail… led to the arrest of 36 suspects including three women,” police chief Mohamed Chakour told reporters.

He said Ben Ismail, 38, had “turned himself in of his own accord” at a police station in the hard-hit Tizi Ouzou region after hearing he was suspected of involvement.

“A large crowd” quickly gathered outside, Chakour told a televised news conference. A man was killed.

Algeria’s LADDH human rights group called for calm as well as justice for those responsible for what they called a “despicable murder”.

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