Greece controls ‘mega fires’ as more fires threaten southern Europe

Greece breathed a sigh of relief on Friday after the “mega fires” that have devastated much of the country were brought under control, but firefighters in other parts of southern Europe braced for new outbreaks.

Scorching temperatures across the Mediterranean have increased the risk of fires, which have already devastated parts of Italy, Turkey, Algeria and Tunisia, with most regions of Spain and Portugal on high alert for wildfires.

Rising temperatures and increased dryness due to changes in rainfall patterns have created ideal conditions for wildfires, with an “unprecedented” five-year period to 2019 for the fires, especially in Europe and North America, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

Scientists say that with increasingly long and intense heat waves due to climate change, they lead to wildfires causing unprecedented material and environmental damage.

Although rain and falling temperatures helped firefighters in Greece to control the active fronts on the island of Evia and the Arcadia region that have burned more than 100,000 hectares, the winds forecast this weekend increased the probability of new outbreaks, authorities said. .

The huge multinational force helping Greece will remain in place, said civil protection spokesman Spyros Georgious.

“They are helping to monitor the perimeters of the burned areas in Evia and Arcadia, which are many kilometers long,” Georgious said.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has called the fires “Greece’s biggest ecological disaster in decades”, linking it directly to climate change.

‘Difficult’ days ahead

In Spain, on Friday, firefighters managed to control a fire in the northeast region of Catalonia that forced the evacuation of a few dozen campers in a protected forest.

But another fire continued to burn near the northwestern city of Rubia, while temperatures in some southwestern provinces were expected to exceed 46 degrees Celsius (115 Fahrenheit).

In a sign of the potentially changing front of the fires in Europe, three French Canadair planes that had been dispatched to Greece were reassigned to Sicily.

Firefighters have been carrying out hundreds of operations across the island, as well as in the southern region of Calabria. Meanwhile, overnight, some 30 people were evacuated after a large fire broke out in a nature reserve near Tivoli, east of Rome.

Sicily’s regional authorities recorded the highest temperature in Europe’s history on Wednesday, at 48.8 degrees Celsius, although this has yet to be officially confirmed.

Scorching temperatures were forecast to continue into the weekend across Italy, sending tourists from major cities flocking to fountains and ice cream parlors.

In Portugal, the government placed 14 of the 18 regions under fire alert, and Prime Minister Antonio Costa warned that the next few days would be “difficult.”

The southern Mediterranean coast has not been spared, as firefighters have continued to fight fires that have already killed 71 people in northern Algeria, and dozens of fires recorded since Monday in Tunisia.

In Turkey, which has barely recovered from deadly fires, at least 27 people died in floods in the north of the country.

(AFP)

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