Tunisia loses swathes of forest in fires

Around 2,000 hectares of forest in Tunisia have gone up in flames over the past week, with some of the fires probably started deliberately, the authorities said on Saturday.

Many of the blazes have been put down to a heatwave gripping the North African country, but arson has also been blamed in some cases.

“Since July 29 we have experienced a wave of forest fires — 94 outbreaks across eight provinces,” emergency services spokesman Salah Korbi told a news conference.

The secretary of state for agriculture, Omar al-Behi, said “around 2,000 hectares” of forest land (4,950 acres) had been lost.

National Guard spokesman Khalifa Chibani told reporters it was obvious the current heatwave was responsible in many cases.

Temperatures at Jendouba in the northwest on Friday were “47 degrees in the shade and 59 in the open”, he said.

But some outbreaks were of criminal origin, Chibani said, adding that four people suspected of setting fires on state-owned land had been arrested.

Emergency services were still working on Saturday to extinguish the remaining fires.

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