Algerian authorities are vowing strict enforcement against the possible criminal acts that sparked a deadly forest fire.
Rabat – Algeria’s government has reported that 21 forest fires raged in several western provinces on Friday and Saturday. Ten people were hospitalized and four have died, according to Algeria’s civil defense agency.
After inspecting the devastated Gouraya mountains, Prime Minister Abbelaziz Djerad vowed tough penalties against anyone found to have purposefully started forest fires.
Djerad announced that authorities have launched a “thorough investigation” into the forest fires in order to determine if criminal acts led to the devastation.
Possible foul play
The civil defense agency reported that fires started “almost simultaneously” in three regions in western Algeria on Friday, burning down several hectares of forests. According to local experts, weather conditions worsened the spread of the fires, yet the government did not rule out foul play. An official investigation into any possible criminal acts is set to determine the cause.
Algeria launched a similar investigation into forest fires in July. The investigation was not able to conclude whether foul play had caused the devastation. This time around, the government is “omnipresent” and will “impose the toughest penalties,” Prime Minister Djerad vowed after visiting the homes of two victims of the wildfires.
“There will be no tolerance for the enemies of life and the detractors of the country,” Djerad announced on Facebook.
“Together, hand in hand, we will recover the forests,” Djerad said. He emphasized the importance of Algeria’s forests, describing them as “economic and environmental capital for all Algerians.”
The results of the investigation will likely take time, as Algeria’s civil defense service is still preoccupied with limiting the harm of the forest fires.
Minister of Agriculture Abdelhamid Hemdani told state media that “priority is currently being given to full control of fires and taking care of the needs of affected citizens.”
Once the situation is brought under control, the authorities concerned will investigate to determine the causes of the fires.
Whether the investigation determines the fires to be the result of criminal acts or not, the government promised to help alleviate the suffering it has caused.
Prime Minister Djerad stated that farmers affected by the fires will receive compensation for their losses. The forest fires have burned over a thousand fruit trees in Algeria’s northern state of Medea alone.
He assured that “every tree lost will be replaced” through reforestation campaigns.
The fires have only further exacerbated the dire state of Algeria’s forests. Illegal logging has risen amid the economic hardships imposed by the pandemic, endangering the country’s Algerian oak species.