At least 65 dead in forest fires in Algeria, Greece and Italy burn


  • Greek firefighters fight flames for ninth day
  • Two men die in forest fires in southern Italy
  • The heat wave in the countries around the Mediterranean

ATHENS / ALGIERS, Aug.11 (Reuters) – Exhausted Greek firefighters battled fires for a ninth day on Wednesday amid sweltering temperatures that also helped fuel forest fires in Algeria, where at least 65 people have died , and in southern Italy.

From Turkey to Tunisia, countries around the Mediterranean have seen some of their highest temperatures in decades, as the United Nations climate panel warned this week that the world was dangerously close to uncontrollable warming.

Greece, in the grip of its worst heatwave in three decades, evacuated around twenty villages from the Peloponnese, although ancient Olympia, site of the first Olympic Games, escaped hell.

About 580 Greek firefighters, aided by French, British, German and Czech colleagues, were fighting fires in Gortynia, near Olympia.

Outbreaks continued to ravage Euboea, Greece’s second largest island, just off the mainland east of Athens and the scene of some of the worst devastation in the past week.

“If helicopters and water bombers had arrived right away and had been operating for six or seven hours, the forest fire would have been put out on the first day,” cafe owner Thrasyvoulos Kotzias, 34, said, watching a deserted beach in the seaside resort of Pefki. on Evia.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called it a “nightmare summer” and apologized for the failures in tackling some of the more than 500 forest fires that have raged in Greece.

“OUR IDENTITY TURNS TO ASH”

Across the Mediterranean, the Algerian government has deployed the army to help fight the fires that have ravaged forest areas in the north of the country, killing at least 65 people, including 28 soldiers.

Smoke rises following a forest fire in Zekri, in the mountainous region of Kabylia in Tizi Ouzou, east of Algiers, Algeria, August 11, 2021. REUTERS / Abdelaziz Boumzar

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The hardest hit area was Tizi Ouzou, the largest district in the mountainous Kabylia region, where houses burned down and residents fled to seek refuge in hotels, hostels and university accommodation in nearby towns.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has declared three days of national mourning for the dead.

In southern Italy, fires ravaged thousands of acres of land as temperatures hit record highs well above 40 degrees Celsius (104 ° F) and hot winds fanned the flames.

Firefighters said on Twitter that they had carried out more than 3,000 operations in Sicily and Calabria in the past 12 hours, deploying seven planes to try to put out the flames.

“We are losing our history, our identity is reduced to ashes, our soul is burning,” wrote on Facebook a mayor of Calabria, Giuseppe Falcomata, after the death of a 76-year-old man when flames engulfed his house.

A 30-year-old man died near the city of Catania when his tractor overturned while carrying water to put out the flames, local media reported.

The Tunisian capital, Tunis, recorded its highest temperature on Tuesday at 49 ° C (120 ° F), the Meteorological Institute said.

Turkey has also suffered nearly 300 forest fires in the past two weeks that have devastated tens of thousands of hectares of forests, although only three were still burning on Wednesday evening.

Turkey’s northern coast, however, faced a different challenge – flooding after unusually heavy rains that destroyed a bridge and left villages without power.

Forest fires are not limited to the Mediterranean region. California suffered the second largest wildfire in history, which Sunday night covered nearly 500,000 acres (2,000 km²).

The United Nations climate panel released a report on Monday that said greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were high enough to ensure climate change for decades, if not centuries.

Reporting by Reuters offices; Writing by Gareth Jones; Editing by Janet Lawrence

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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