Thousands of firefighters continue to battle devastating wildfires in Greece, Turkey and Italy. In a massive fire in the Greek Peloponnese, five people were injured and a dozen houses destroyed, according to a preliminary report from the Civil Defense on Saturday. Within 24 hours, 56 fires broke out on the peninsula, according to the report, but most of them were quickly brought under control.Meanwhile, in Turkey, the death toll rose to six after the discovery of two bodies. Emergency forces in southern Turkey continued their fight against the flames for the fourth day in a row. Numerous forest fires are also blazing in southern Italy.
Evacuations in Greece
Greek authorities called on residents of four villages near the city of Patras to seek safety. Another small seaside resort was evacuated late Saturday afternoon. According to firefighters, 145 emergency personnel, 50 trucks, as well as eight firefighting aircraft were involved in the firefighting efforts in the region.All hospitals in Patras and the nearby small town of Egio were alerted, and the Coast Guard was put on alert to rescue swimmers affected by the smoke. The highway and the Rio Andirrio bridge to the Peloponnese were closed as a precaution.
Investigation into arson in Turkey
In Turkey, ten fires were still active on Saturday, according to Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli, with 88 others now under control. Because many of the fires had broken out almost simultaneously near popular tourist spots, authorities are also investigating arson.A fire broke out again on Saturday in the seaside resort of Bodrum on Turkey's Aegean Sea, according to state news agency Anadolu, but residents and holidaymakers had been brought to safety. The fires had broken out on Wednesday and spread rapidly along Turkey's Mediterranean coast due to the heat and strong winds. More than 300 people were injured, many villages had to be evacuated.
Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan thanked his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for sending helicopters and firefighting aircraft. The Turkish head of state has come under criticism in his own country after it became known that Turkey has no fire-fighting aircraft, despite the fires that break out time and again every year.
Italy's north threatened with heavy rain, south on fire
The Italian Civil Protection Agency issued new warnings for many parts of the Mediterranean country on Saturday evening. The highest warning level, red, is in effect for some areas of northern Italy's Lombardy region, a report from the civil defense agency said. This week, heavy storms had led to flooding and landslides in the area around Lake Como. In the village of Laglio, a celebrity even turned up unexpectedly to pledge his help: U.S. actor George Clooney.
The mayors and municipalities on the ground have been informed, explained the head of the Civil Defense Authority, Fabrizio Curcio, at a press conference in Rome called at short notice on Saturday evening. Elevated severe weather warning levels are in effect for other parts of northern Italy, such as northern Tuscany and Veneto.
In the south of the country, fires raged mainly on the resort island of Sicily around the major city of Catania. The fires are fueled by persistent heat, drought and strong winds. Investigators attribute some to arson here as well. Agriculture, livestock and resorts were affected.Curcio spoke of a "serious" and "disastrous" situation. The regional president of Sicily, Nello Musumeci, called for further support from the government in the fight against the flames.
According to Curcio, the Civil Defense Authority is already deployed in Sicily with twelve firefighting aircraft from the national fleet. Experts were working to send more firefighting squads to Sicily. This year, he said, the regions have already requested firefighting aircraft nearly 560 times during the wildfire season. In the three previous years, the number was much lower during the same period. Only in 2017, a complicated forest fire year, were there nearly 800 requests.More fires are blazing in the south of mainland Italy. The island of Sardinia has also recently been badly affected by bushfires.
Image by Gerd Altmann