ALGIERS, Algeria—The death toll in fires ravaging mountain forests and villages in Algeria’s Berber region climbed Wednesday to 65 people, including 28 soldiers, as the president declared a three-day mourning period this week to honor the lives lost.
The Civil Protection authority announced the rising number of victims, up from 42 on Tuesday, including 25 soldiers.
President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said his North African nation would enter a three-day period of mourning starting Thursday that would include suspending all government activity except for actions of solidarity.
Dozens of fires began devouring forested mountainsides in the Berber region of Kabyle, east of Algiers, the capital, on Monday, destroying village homes, olive tree orchards, and animals that provide a livelihood for the region.
The forestry director in Tizi-Ouzou, the regional capitol, said Wednesday that 18 fires remain active in the region. Dozens of fires burned elsewhere across the north, but their deadly force was concentrated in Kabyle.
There was no official explanation of the high death toll among soldiers but photos in Algerian media showed soldiers in their army fatigues with no protective firefighting clothing.
The prime minister and interior minister both said Tuesday that arson was suspected in the Kabyle blazes.
Citizens, mainly youths, are helping to supply residents in need and “caravans of solidarity” were heading to Tizi-Ouzou, the online media outlet TSA reported.