News World Sicily’s ordeal by fire prompts state of emergency

Sicily’s ordeal by fire prompts state of emergency

Italy Greece wildfires
Regions of Italy and Greece have been ravaged by wildfires in the past week. Photo: AAP
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Sicily has declared a state of emergency as deadly wildfires rage across southern Italy.

The regional government of Sicily on Saturday declared a state of emergency and crisis for six months due to the wildfires that have been raging on the island since the end of July.

It comes as thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes on the outskirts of Athens, as Greece faced a fourth day of wildfires fuelled by strong winds and searing temperatures.

Like elsewhere in Europe, Greece has been grappling with extreme weather this summer and a week-long heatwave – its worst in 30 years – has sparked simultaneous wildfires in many parts of the country, burning homes and killing animals.

Regional president Nello Musumeci said in a Facebook post explaining his decision that unusually high temperatures and abnormal weather conditions will continue to present a risk in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, in Calabria, the bodies of a man and a woman were discovered at a farm in San Lorenzo on Friday after fire engulfed a stable and another building.

The pair had been trying to save an olive grove from the flames, Italy’s ANSA news agency reports.

Swathes of southern Italy have been battling wildfires for days, with Calabria, Sicily and Puglia worst affected.

In Sardinia, the fire brigade in Oristano province reported a blaze had broken out at tourist accommodation on Saturday morning.

Ring of fire

The fire brigade prevented the flames from spreading to nearby vegetation, they said. No casualties were reported.

Oristano, on the west coast of the Mediterranean island, has grappled with major forest fires recently, causing extensive damage.

Unusually high temperatures of more than 40 degrees Celsius are causing drought throughout the southern part of Italy, fuelling the fires.

Many of them are thought to have been started deliberately.

The Coldiretti agricultural association described the summer as the hottest in a decade.

In Greece, dozens of wildfires continue to rampaged through forests, threatening homes and triggering more evacuations in what has been described by one local official as a ‘biblical catastrophe’.

One volunteer firefighter has died, at least 20 people have been treated in hospitals and hundreds have been plucked off beaches by ferries in a dramatic overnight rescue.

A local official in the Mani region of the Peloponnese estimated the wildfire there had destroyed around 70 per cent of her area.

“It’s a biblical catastrophe. We’re talking about three-quarters of the municipality,” East Mani Deputy Mayor Drakoulakou told state broadcaster ERT, pleading for more water-dropping aircraft.