Tourists and villages evacuated as wildfires rage in Turkey, Greece, Italy

Dozens of villages were evacuated in tourist spots in southern Turkey on Sunday as forest fires that claimed six lives raged for the fifth day, while fires also hit Greece, Italy and Spain.

Fueled by rising temperatures, strong winds and climate change – which experts say is increasing both the frequency and intensity of such fires – this year’s fire season has been significantly more destructive than the previous average, EU data shows.

Turkey is suffering the worst fires in at least a decade with nearly 95,000 hectares (235,000 acres) burned so far this year, compared to an average of 13,516 at this point in the year between 2008 and 2020.

A neighborhood in the tourist town of Bodrum has been evacuated, CNN Turk reported, as the flames were fanned by strong winds from nearby Milas district.

Unable to leave by road, 540 residents were taken to hotels by boat, the channel said.

There were more evacuations in the resort town of Antalya, the NTV broadcaster reported.

After reaching record levels last month, temperatures in the region will remain high.

A temperature of 49.1 degrees Celsius (120.3 Fahrenheit) was recorded in the southeastern city of Cizre on July 20.

And the mercury is expected to reach 40 degrees Celsius in Antalya on Monday.

The Turkish Defense Ministry has released satellite images showing the extent of the damage, with forest areas turning black and smoke still visible.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been criticized after it was revealed that Turkey had no fire-fighting planes, despite a third of its territory being forested and fires becoming a growing problem.

According to EU figures, Turkey has been hit by 133 wildfires so far in 2021, compared to an average of 43 at this point in the year between 2008 and 2020.

Greek ‘catastrophe’

Firefighters also fought fires in Greece after a major blaze broke out early on Saturday near Patras in the west.

Five villages have been evacuated and eight people have been hospitalized with burns and respiratory problems in the region, which is still on alert.

About 20 homes have burned down, according to a preliminary figure from the fire service.

The mayor of the nearby village of Aigialeias, Dimitris Kalogeropoulos, called it “an immense catastrophe”.

About 30 houses, barns and stables were consumed by flames in the villages of Ziria, Kamares, Achaias and Labiri.

“We slept outside at night, terrified we wouldn’t have a house when we woke up,” a Labiri resident told Greek TV channel Skai.

The resort town of Loggos was also evacuated, sending nearly 100 residents and tourists to the nearby town of Aigio.

According to EU data, 13,500 hectares were burned in Greece, compared to an average of 7,500 currently in the year of 2008-2020.

‘Crazy Summer’

Italy was hit again by fires after more than 20,000 hectares of forest, olive groves and crops were destroyed by a fire in Sardinia last weekend.

More than 800 flare-ups were registered this weekend, mostly in the south, the Italian fire service said.

“In the last 24 hours, firefighters have carried out more than 800 interventions: 250 in Sicily, 130 in Puglia and Calabria, 90 in Lazio and 70 in Campania,” the brigade tweeted.

It added that firefighters were still fighting fires in the Sicilian cities of Catania, Palermo and Syracuse.

While the south of Italy is on fire, the north has faced wild storms.

“The cost of the damage caused throughout the northern Italian countryside by the violent storms and hail during this crazy summer is tens of millions of euros,” said the agricultural organization Coldiretti.

In Spain, dozens of firefighters, backed by water-dropping planes, battled a wildfire that broke out Saturday afternoon near the San Juan reservoir, about 70 kilometers (40 miles) east of Madrid.

Firefighters said on Sunday they had managed to stabilize the blaze overnight, but local authorities urged people to stay away from the reservoir, a popular resort for residents of the Spanish capital.

(AFP)

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