Algiers: Fires in northeastern Algeria have destroyed more than 10 percent of a UNESCO-listed biosphere reserve and killed at least 38 people, experts told AFP on Saturday. Figures cited by Rafic Baba Ahmed, former director of the El Qala Biosphere Reserve, show that the area burned in the park alone has been destroyed across Africa’s largest country since June, Civil Defense said. means that it is almost twice as large as
Algeria’s northeast has been hit particularly hard since Wednesday by fires exacerbated by climate change, but firefighters on Saturday said most of the blazes there had been extinguished. About 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres) of the park have been damaged,” said Baba Ahmed. According to the United Nations Cultural Organization UNESCO, the El He Kala Biosphere Reserve covers more than 76,000 hectares.
It’s the last refuge of the Barbary red deer and “a very remarkable bird habitat, with more than 60,000 migratory birds arriving each winter,” says the UNESCO website. “It is an ecosystem mosaic of oceans, dunes, lakes and forests, with marine belts rich in corals, Posidonian meadows and fish,” said UNESCO. According to Baba Ahmed, the forest covers his 54,000 hectares of the park and most of the trees are cork oaks. “It is considered one of the major biodiversity reserves of the Mediterranean Basin,” he said, praising its “extraordinary biological richness.”
But Baba Ahmed said he was “very pessimistic” about the future of the region, which is regularly ravaged by wildfires. “Over time, fires weaken forests and make them vulnerable to other attacks, especially human activity.” As a result, the area is losing flora and fauna, forestry experts say. added.
Civil Defense Colonel Buarem Bokhlev said on Friday night television that 1,242 fires have destroyed 5,345 hectares of forest in Algeria since June 1. Baba Ahmed said the numbers were unrealistic. Fires in northeastern Algeria were largely extinguished, but firefighters fought two blazes on the other side of the country, Tlemcen in the far west, the civil defense said Saturday on his Facebook page.
The fire has prompted Algerians, both at home and in the diaspora, to collect clothing, medicine and food to help those affected. French President Emmanuel Macron called Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to offer his condolences “for the victims of the fire,” state news agency APS reported on Saturday. Spain and Portugal have also suffered massive wildfires over the past week, including another UNESCO World Heritage park that is estimated to have burned more than 25,000 hectares. – AFP