Algeria president orders probe into forest fires

AFP , Sunday 2 Aug 2020

Algeria's president on Sunday ordered an "immediate" investigation into forest fires that have ravaged thousands of hectares across the country in recent days, his office said.

The enquiry aims to "determine the causes of fires that have ravaged vast stretches of forest".

Local media have reported that the fires also destroyed homes, but the statement from President Abdelmadjid Tebboune's office made no mention of such incidents.

The country's forestries agency said it had recorded 1,216 fires between June 1 and August 1, destroying some 8,778 hectares, the official APS news agency reported Sunday.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad set up a monitoring unit to track forest fires and efforts to prevent and control them.

The blazes peaked late last month with 66 fires reported on July 27, and civil defence helicopters were called in to extinguish them, the forestry service said.

Algeria has repeatedly experienced forest fires in recent years, but the results of a 2019 enquiry that sought to establish causes were never released.

A study by the geography journal Mediterranee found that a lack of forests and creeping desertification were making the fires particularly disastrous.

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