Firefighters in Morocco Battle Infernos as Villagers Flee

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

The fires, fanned by strong winds in the four areas, have not resulted in any casualties so far, but nearly 500 families were evacuated “as a precaution” in the provinces of Larache and Taza, according to official statements.

Several villages that were evacuated also saw military planes dropping loads of water for the firefighters to extinguish fires tearing across the dry terrain.

Shocked by how fast the flames were spreading, residents fled their homes, with some families herding their cattle and horses — upon which their livelihoods depend — ahead of them.

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

In four provinces — Larache, Ouezzane, Tetouan and Taza — the fires ripped through forestland that is difficult to access, said Fouad Assali, head of the National Center for Forest Climate Risk Management.

Since Wednesday night, at least 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) of forest have burned in Larache and Ouezzane, according to initial reports, leaving burnt trees smouldering under a sky blanketed by plumes of smoke.

The North African nation, 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, wildfires 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.

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