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Migrants die in fire sparked by electrical fault at Algerian camp

A deadly blaze broke out when a heater exploded in Ouargla refugee camp in southeastern Algeria. The oil-rich country is one of the main destinations for migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

At least 18 people were killed in Tuesday's fire, including two children, officials in Algeria said. Another 50 were injured, according to a source in the emergency services cited by the AFP news agency.

The president of the Algerian Red Crescent, Saida Benhabiles, said that 27 people were still being treated in hospital following the pre-dawn incident.

"A short circuit triggered the explosion of a heater and the fire," Benhabiles told AFP.

Algeria's health and interior ministers were dispatched to the scene, according to the official Algerian news agency APS.

The foreign ministry established a crisis cell to "monitor and identify the victims."

Seeking for shelter

The Ouargla camp in the southeast of the country reportedly houses more than 650 refugees, mostly from Mali and Niger.

However, officials did not immediately provide details on victims' nationalities.

The Algerian authorities set up the Ouargla camp last year in an old warehouse, faced with the influx of migrants from crisis areas in other African countries.

The number of the migrants fluctuates daily, according to the Red Crescent head Benhabiles.

"They are constantly on the move. One day there could be 2,000 [migrants] and the next they are 200," she said. "We don't lock up people as they do elsewhere."

Many of the migrants arriving in oil-rich Algeria aim to reach neighboring Libya, and eventually continue their journey to Europe.

dj/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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