Temperatures in Italy, Spain and France soared to record levels in the wake of the current heat wave. The drought in southern Europe does the rest: bushfires are raging in many places, and fire brigades are in constant use.
More and more fires are burning in the dry forests of the holiday countries of southern Europe. And the problem is getting worse, with temperatures expected to reach 40 degrees in Italy and France in the coming days.
On the holiday island of Sicily, the bushfire warning level was still high in large parts on Thursday, as in Sardinia. Recently, firefighters have repeatedly responded to forest and bush fires, for example in South Tyrol and Tuscany and in and around Rome.
In France, the fire brigade on the Atlantic coast continued to fight a large-scale wildfire in the pine forests south of Bordeaux.
Concern in South Tyrol due to rising number of forest fires
The government in South Tyrol has already recorded much more forest fires than usual this year.
“While there have been an average of about 20 forest fires per year for the past 20 years, there have been more than 40 this year,” Arnold Schuller, a member of the Regional Forestry Council, said Thursday in Bolzano. Firefighters used firefighting helicopters to put out the flames.
Schuller warned that a quarter of wildfires this year may be caused by cigarette butts.
There has been a severe drought in Italy for weeks. The government has already declared a state of emergency in five northern districts along the Po River due to drought. Other regions could follow suit, Agriculture Minister Stefano Patuanelli said in Parliament on Wednesday night.
In France, meteorologists expect a drought by the end of July. Although there were storms with heavy rain in many places in the second half of June, the effect largely disappeared – the soil began to dry up again.
Fans are selling like hot cakes in Spain: According to media reports, sales figures in Bilbao, in the north of the country, are up more than 50 percent. In 16 of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, the heat alert must continue to apply on Thursday, and even a red alert in some of these regions.
Several forest fires have also broken out in Portugal since last week, for example in the Leiria region in the Central Portugal region. A fire caused the closure of the main highway in Portugal, which links the capital, Lisbon, to Porto. Eleven major fires broke out in different parts of the country on Thursday, according to the Civil Defense (ANEPC). A total of 1,900 emergency services fought the fires.
In the southern Algarve region popular with tourists, a fire broke out in the city of Faro and spread to a luxury resort. For about half the country, a red alert is still in effect on Thursday due to extreme temperatures.
Also in Croatia, a fire brigade near the Dalmatian town of Sibenik fought against a forest fire that ravaged two villages on the Krka Riviera, popular with tourists, on Wednesday. The residents of Zaton and Raslina were taken to safety by boat across the bay of Stopalj. The Civil Defense confirmed that the situation is worse than it was ten years ago.
On the Greek island of Samos, several towns were evacuated Wednesday evening due to a forest fire that got out of control. A firefighting helicopter crashed into the sea from a low altitude off the island’s coast while the crew attempted to take water to fight the fire.
Two of the plane’s passengers died and the pilot was later taken to hospital with serious injuries. The Greek coast guard said a fourth prisoner who was missing initially swam ashore. It was not clear what caused the helicopter crash.
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