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24 May, 2024
 
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Deadly blazes strike Mediterranean nations

Tragic loss as wildfires spread rapidly

Source: Euronews

More than 40 people - most of them in Algeria - have been killed as devastating fires destroy homes, businesses and trigger mass evacuations.

Violent wildfires, fuelled by climate change, have killed scores of people across the Mediterranean.

Deaths have been reported in Greece, where a plane dropping water on the blaze crashed, killing both pilots.

Yet, the heaviest death toll so far is in Algeria where there have been 34 victims, including 10 soldiers surrounded by flames during an evacuation in the coastal province of Bejaia, east of Algiers.

Two people died in southern Italy on Tuesday.

Scorching temperatures have blasted several countries across the Med for days now, creating tinder box conditions.

Extreme weather events such as these are linked to human-induced climate change. Scientists warn they will only grow more frequent, severe, and longer unless people and governments drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Algeria
In Algeria, firefighters continued to tackle 11 fires ravaging the northeast, after managing to put out around 80% of the deadly blazes that killed at least 34 people over the last three days.

Local media images show fields and bushes on fire, charred cars, and shops reduced to ashes.

In Toudja, a badly hard-hit area in the northeast, the fire was almost entirely stopped, despite a few persistent outbreaks. Sixteen people died here.

Firefighting planes dropped water for two days on this wooded area, located on the shores of the Mediterranean.

Fires have also raged in neighboring Tunisia, where 300 people had to be evacuated from the coastal village of Melloula.

Greece
Greece has been particularly hard hit, with authorities evacuating more than 20,000 people in recent days from homes and resorts on the holiday island of Rhodes.

Two Greek airforce pilots - aged 27 and 34 - died yesterday when their water-dropping plane, crashed on the island of Evia, east of Athens.

Savage forest fires have ravaged the country for ten days, with firefighting teams from around Europe scrambling to help.

On Tuesday, temperatures were pushed back into the 40s, with strong winds whipping by the flames.

With apocalyptic images of decimated forests continuing to shock Greece, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned the struggle against wildfires would remain "difficult".

About the dead pilots, he said: “They offered their lives to save lives.”

“They proved how hazardous their daily missions in extinguishing fires are ... In their memory, we continue the war against the destructive forces of nature.”

Successive evacuations of locals and holidaymakers have been ordered on Corfu, Evia, and Rhodes. Tourist flights have now largely been canceled, though some providers were still running flights in affected areas.

Italy
While storms batter the north, parts of southern Italy are going up in flames.

Firefighters on Tuesday battled wildfires in Sicily, one of which got so close to Palermo airport that it was shut down for several hours on Tuesday morning.

The tarmac melted and authorities urged people not to come to the airport for “security reasons.”

At least 1,500 people have so far been evacuated from the Palermo area. The national fire brigade, Vigili del Fuoco (VdF), said the situation was “critical” in five areas around the city, where several houses had been affected by the fires.

Sicily's civil protection agency reported temperatures of up to 47.6 degrees Celsius in Catania on Monday.

The bodies of two septuagenarians were found charred in a house engulfed in flames and an 88-year-old woman died near Palermo, media reported on Tuesday evening.

The president of the Sicilian region, Renato Schifani, has indicated that he wants to ask the government, which meets on Wednesday, to declare a state of emergency on the Mediterranean island.

In Italy's northern Lombardy region, a powerful storm accompanied by heavy hail caused flooding and power outages and was blamed for the death of a 16-year-old girl at a scouts' camp.

France
Firefighters fought overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday a virulent fire threatening three villages in Haute-Corse, south Corsica.

The fires were close to three villages, Corbara, Pigna, and Santa-Reparata-Di-Balagna.

Parts of two hamlets have "many sensitive points, dwellings, religious points", according to the firefighters.

Some 130 hectares of vegetation have already been ravaged by the flames according to a latest assessment.

Croatia
Flames came within 12 km of Croatia's medieval town Dubrovnik late on Tuesday.

Dubrovnik was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1979 in recognition of its outstanding medieval architecture and fortified old town.

Turkey
In Turkey, authorities evacuated a dozen homes and a hospital as a precaution on Tuesday.

Wildfires are raging through a rugged forest area near the Mediterranean resort of Kemer, in Antalya province.

Another wildfire in the western province of Manisa was brought under control a day after it burnt at least 14 homes.

TAGS
Cyprus  |  Mediterranean  |  Greece  |  Italy  |  fires  |  blaze

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