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Morocco firefighters battle blazes as villagers flee

Hundreds of Moroccan firefighters and soldiers battled Thursday to put out at least four infernos ripping through forests in the north of the kingdom, officials said.

Locals try to extinguish small fires in a village near a wild forest fire in Morocco’s northern region of Ksar Sghir on July 14, 2022. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

Hundreds of Moroccan firefighters and soldiers battled Thursday to put out at least four infernos ripping through forests in the north of the kingdom, officials said.

Several villages had to be evacuated ahead of the flames as military water-bomber planes dropped loads in a bid to extinguish the blaze, an AFP journalist said.

In soaring temperatures, and shocked by how fast the leaping flames were spreading, villagers fled their homes.

Some, where they could, herded their crucial cattle and horses upon which their livelihoods depend ahead of them.

A village in the Ksar El Kebir region of the North African nation was destroyed by the flames.

Fires fanned by strong winds broke out in the northern regions of Larache, Ouezzane, Tetouan and Taza, said the head of the National Center for Forest Climate Risk Management.

“Efforts are continuing in the hope of bringing these fires under control in the next few hours,” said Assali, quoted by the official MAP news agency.

At least 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) of forest have been burned since Wednesday night in Larache and Ouezzane, according to initial reports.

Hundreds of civil defence workers as well as soldiers and police officers are taking part in trying to stop the fires from causing more destruction.

Morocco, which is struggling under intense droughts has in recent days been hit by soaring temperatures approaching 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).

Across the Strait of Gibraltar, wild fires are also raging in southern Europe, from Portugal and Spain through to France and Greece.

Scientists say extreme weather events such as heatwaves and droughts, which make wildfires more likely, are linked to climate change.

They are expected to become even more frequent, more prolonged and more intense in the future.