ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Wildfires raging in the forests of eastern Algeria have killed 26 people, according to a “provisional report” by the north African country’s interior minister.
Most victims were reported in the wilaya, or region, of El Tarf, near the northern Algerian-Tunisian border, where 24 people have been found dead, including eight of them on a public bus surprised by the flames as it was driving in a mountainous region.
Interior Minister Kamel Beldjoud also said on public television late Wednesday that two people died in the region of Setif, about 300 kilometers (185 miles) east of Algiers.
He noted that on Wednesday only, 39 fires have started in 14 regions, including 16 in El Tarf and that 3,200 hectares (over 12 square miles) of forests and brush have been ravaged by blazes since the beginning of August.
In a message of condolences, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune expressed his solidarity with the victims. He said the Algerian state will use “all human and material resources” to put an end to the wildfires and that families of people who died or whose homes were affected will “get compensation.”
Last year’s major wildfires killed 104 people, including 33 soldiers. In mid-June, Algerian authorities rented a firefighting aircraft for three months from Russia.