When Algeria’s terrible wildfires ripped through the forest around their town, brothers Khelaf and Lyazid Tazibt had no choice but to rush their families out the door and surrender the home they shared to the flames.
The two retired men, along with their wives and children, are now among hundreds of Algerians who have been displaced by the country’s worst flames in memory, which have scorched swaths of the north-east over the past week, killing dozens of people.
“Like anyone else who saw those flames, it was impossible to do anything. We all gave up,” said Khelaf Tazibt, 55, standing in one of their single-storey home’s damaged rooms, its walls cracked and black with soot.
He held up cracked plates and other belongings misshapen by the inferno. “The firefighters arrived a little late and there was nothing they could do,” he said.
His brother, Lyazid simply said “the fire reached the sky”.
Their village of Ait Sid Ali, in the northeastern Bejaia province, sits in rocky hills and was previously surrounded by forest. The Tazibt house was on the village edge, close to the trees and one of many there lost to the flames.
A European Union atmosphere monitor said this month that the Mediterranean had become a wildfire hotspot, with enormous blazes engulfing forests in Turkey, Greece, and North Africa, boosted by a heatwave.
According to them, four persons were murdered when a fire quickly enveloped Ait Sid Ali. The neighbouring hills have been charred, but beyond the settlement, another hillside stands dark with smoke above the raging fires.
The two families are awaiting compensation and rehousing from the government while getting food, medication, and blankets from local charity agencies.
“We’ve lost everything,” Lyazid Tazibt remarked, looking over the ruins of his family’s home.