Smoke rises from a forest fire in the mountainous Tizi Ouzou province, east of the Algerian capital, Algiers

Smoke rises from a forest fire in the mountainous Tizi Ouzou province, east of the Algerian capital, Algiers
The dead include soldiers who were killed saving residents from wildfires ravaging mountain forests and villages east of the capital, Algiers.

At least 65 people have been killed in wildfires that erupted in Algeria, according to state television reports.

Officials said the number included 25 soldiers killed trying to save residents.

The fires have been ravaging forests and villages east of the capital, Algiers, in the Kabyle region, covering the mountainous area with thick clouds of smoke.

Prime Minister Ayman Benabderrahmane told state television the blazes appeared to be "highly synchronised", adding that "leads one to believe these were criminal acts".

He called on the international community to help and said the government was in talks with partners to hire planes to extinguish fires. The region has no water-dumping aircraft.

Firefighters and the army are still trying to contain the blazes.

Algeria's President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said on Twitter that soldiers have saved more than 100 citizens from the blazes in the two areas of the mountainous region.

The Kabyle region, which is situated 60 miles (100km) east of Algeria's capital of Algiers, is dotted with difficult-to-access villages.

Some villagers were fleeing, while others tried to hold back the flames themselves, using buckets, branches and rudimentary tools.

The deaths and injuries occurred around Kabyle's capital of Tizi-Ouzou, which is flanked by mountains and in Bejaia, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, the president said.

Earlier, interior minister Kamel Beldjoud travelled to Kabyle to assess the situation and also blamed the fires there on arson.

"Only criminal hands can be behind the simultaneous outbreak of about 50 fires across several localities," he said, although no arrests have been announced.

He said the priority was to avoid more victims and vowed to compensate those affected.

A 92-year-old woman who lives in the Kabyle mountain village of Ait Saada said on Monday night the scene looked like "the end of the world".

"We were afraid," Fatima Aoudia said.

"The entire hill was transformed into a giant blaze."

She compared the scene to bombings by French troops during Algeria's independence war, which ended in 1962.

"These burned down forests. It's a part of me that is gone," she said.

"It's a drama for humanity, for nature. It's a disaster."

Last week, a European Union atmosphere monitor said the Mediterranean had become a wildfire hotspot as massive blazes engulfed forests in Turkey and Greece, aided by a heatwave.