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Tunisia: Forest Wildfires - Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA) DREF Operation n° MDRTN010

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Description of the disaster

Following a series of wildfires in Algeria, wildfires were reported in border regions between Tunisia and Algeria during the last week of August. According to the Algerian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development on 14 July 2021, 8,000 hectares of land in Algeria have been damaged by man-made wildfires since the beginning of July.

On Saturday, 24 July 2021, a fire broke out late in the afternoon in the pine forests of Ain Mazer, Sakiet Sidi Youssef district, Kef governorate in the middle-western region of Tunisia. Ain Mazer is a small village located in a rugged area,18 kilometres from Sakkiet Sidi Youssef’s centre. Its population makes their living primarily through forestry, livestock, and crop farming. Simultaneously, another fire has erupted in Ghar Dimaa delegation, Jendouba Governorate, damaging over 1,500 hectares of Fajj Hessin forests.

The fire destroyed 1,000 hectares of pine forest and continued until the evening of 27 July 2021, spreading up to Touiref, another village in the Kef governorate’s northern region.

The fire in Touiref destroyed approximately 100 hectares of forest as well as ten homes and farms. This is the second fire accident reported in a month, following the fires that erupted on Thursday 8 July 2021, in Djebel Kmim, devastating more than 50 hectares.

Huge forest fires destroying hundreds of hectares around the military base area in Kasserine (located in the Central West of Tunisia) affecting the neighbouring population.

The civil Protection units with the cooperation of forestry officers were immediately mobilized to bring the fire under control, supported by the imminent intervention of the Ministry of National Defence, which sent a helicopter due to the landform in both locations that makes access for the firefighting trucks difficult. In some forests, these fires were extinguished in collaboration with civil protection officials and the Forest General Directorate, whereas in others, the flames continue to burn for many hectares to this day.

Subsequently, it has been reported that 100 households in Ain Mazer (Kef) are under threat, as many of them have lost their animals and other property, or both. Ten families have been made homeless as a result of the emergency assessment.

Whereas in Jendouba, an additional 36 houses were burnt to the ground, livestock was lost, but no human casualties were reported.

The social and economic consequences for these inhabitants are significant, particularly in the case of grazing areas used to harvest aromatic plants for the extraction of rosemary oil. Around 100 affected families in Jendouba no longer have the resources to feed their livestock (cattle, sheep, and goats. Faced with the prospect of losing their source of income, many fled risk areas in search of shelter and are now experiencing financial difficulties.
The current dry and hot weather conditions in Tunisia are considerably increasing the risk of fires. Hot winds from the south exacerbate the situation, allowing any fire outbreak to quickly spread and cause widespread destruction in three governorates: El Kef, Jendouba, and Kasserine. As the Algerian borders with Tunisia remain to date on surging fires, TRC will keep monitoring the situation and revise their plan as needed, noting that the high risk of forest fires will continue for the coming days.