ALGIERS (REUTERS) – Wildfires tearing through forested areas of northern Algeria have killed at least 65 people, state television reported on Wednesday (Aug 11), as some of the most destructive blazes in the country’s history raged.

The government has deployed the army to help fight the fires, which have burnt most fiercely in the mountainous Kabylie region, and 28 of the dead are soldiers, with another 12 critically injured with burns.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared three days of national mourning for the dead and froze state activities not related to the fires.

French President Emmanuel Macron said France would send two water bomber planes to the Kabylie region.

“I wish to bring all our support to Algerian citizens. As of tomorrow, two Canadairs and a command aircraft will be dispatched,” Macron said on his Twitter account.

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, though without providing evidence.

The worst hit area has been Tizi Ouzou, the largest Kabylie district, 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.

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