According to Algerian state media, forest fires in the forested mountains of northern Algeria have killed at least 65 people since Monday.
Although the military has been deployed to help fight the fires, local media reported that at least 86 fires remained to be fought in 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 who were involved in the firefighting.
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 civilians traveling to towns and cities where fires had broken out to provide aid.
The government claimed Tuesday, without showing any evidence, that the fires were the work of arsonists, and authorities said they had arrested and questioned three people in connection with the fires in cities including Medea and Annaba.
But Algeria has suffered from a high-wind heatwave, similar to the situation in the northern Mediterranean that has fueled wildfires in other parts of Europe.
Temperatures in Tizi Ouzou, the area hardest hit so far in this week’s fires, which have seen the most deaths, are expected to reach 116 degrees Fahrenheit this week.
The fires first started Monday in mountain forests and villages east of Algiers, the capital, and spread across the Berber region of the country, destroying homes, orchards and livestock.