Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Fires ravage southern Europe, forcing residents and tourists to evacuate

Fires are common in southern Turkey during the hot summer but experts have said this year's are much bigger than usual.

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Wildfires are continuing to rage in Turkey, Greece, and Italy, with entire villages and beaches being evacuated.

Many other countries around the Mediterranean are affected because of record heat.

Coastal areas are among the worst-affected, with fires blazing for a fifth day in some of Turkey’s Mediterranean resort towns.

Because roads were impassable, more than 1,000 tourists had to be rescued from the Turkish tourist resort of Bodrum by boat, with the help of the navy.

Many residents and tourists were rescued by small boats over the weekend, as coastguard and navy ships waited further out to sea in case a larger-scale evacuation was needed.

Allyson, who has been living in the Mediterranean resort of Marmaris for 15 years, said of the fires: “Something is different because I’ve never seen this before. We had fires before but I’ve never seen this devastation. And it’s not just here – it’s everywhere.”

There are more than 120 fires in Turkey alone, with eight people confirmed dead.

State news agency Anadolu said the number of people who have had to receive medical treatment due to the fires has risen to 864.

Fires are common in southern Turkey during the hot summer but experts have said this year’s are much bigger than usual.

Authorities are investigating possible arson but scientists blame climate change, with temperatures five or six degrees higher than the average for this time of year.

The current heatwave is being fuelled by hot air from northern Africa. The southern coastal city of Antalya reached 42 degrees Celsius during the weekend and temperatures are expected to reach 47 degrees this week.

Helicopters are being used to fight the flames in some areas that are unreachable by land.

The aerial fighting force includes contributions from Croatia, Spain, Ukraine, Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the target of criticism when it was discovered that Turkey did not have its own water bomber planes, as a third of the country is made up of forests.

Fires have also devastated parts of Greece and Italy.

In the Italian city of Pescara, on the Adriatic coast, people ran from the beaches when they spotted smoke and flames rising from a nearby pine forest and several people were injured when they tried to extinguish flames that had reached their homes.

After devastating fires in Sardinia last week, Italy counted more than 800 forest fires this weekend, mainly in the south of the country, firefighters said on Twitter.

On the Greek island of Rhodes, many residents were left without electricity and water as a fire threatened the Valley Of The Butterflies, a military base, and the village of Psinthos, all of which have been evacuated.

Firefighters were stretched by a fire that broke out on Saturday due to high temperatures in the northwest of the Peloponnese peninsula. Eight people were hospitalised with respiratory problems and burns, and five villages were evacuated.

In villages across the region, houses, agricultural warehouses and stables have burned down and entire fields of olive trees have been destroyed, according to local newspaper Patrastimes.

“We are sleeping outside at night, afraid that we would no longer have a home when we woke up,” a resident told Greek television.

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