NewsWorld"It is a catastrophe": Wildfires hit Sicily, as heatwave grips Italy

“It is a catastrophe”: Wildfires hit Sicily, as heatwave grips Italy

Blazes dotted the hills near the Sicilian town of Giarratana on Wednesday (August 11) burning the pine forest and threatening houses and farms.

“Our small town was really invaded by fire. It is a catastrophe, the entire Calaforno park and the surrounding area went up in flames. We have lived and are still living some really sad moments”, resident Giovanna Licitra said.

Fires were continuing to ravage southern Italy, burning thousands of acres of land and killing a man in his home in Calabria, as temperatures hit records well above 40 degrees Celsius (104°F) and hot winds stoked the flames.

In the town of Floridia, in southern Sicily, the temperature reached 48.8 degrees Celsius in early afternoon, the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe, daily newspaper Corriere della Sera reported, citing the regional meteorological information system.

Firemen said on Twitter they had carried out more than 3,000 operations in Sicily and Calabria in the last 12 hours, employing seven planes to try to douse the flames from above.

Fuelled by the hot weather, fires have erupted across southern Europe in recent weeks, with huge damage to the landscape on the Italian island of Sardinia.

In Greece, many villages on the Peloponnese peninsula were evacuated on Wednesday as exhausted fire-fighters battled wildfires for a ninth consecutive day.

At the other end of the Mediterranean, fires also tore through forested areas of northern Algeria on Wednesday, killing at least 65 people, state television reported.

The Mediterranean has become a wildfire hotspot, with Turkey hit by its most intense blazes on record and a heatwave producing a high risk of further fires and smoke pollution around the region, a European Union atmosphere monitor said on Wednesday.

Human-induced climate change is making heatwaves more likely and more severe, scientists say. The EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) said the hot and dry conditions had hiked the danger of further fires, although high temperatures alone do not trigger wildfires because they need a source of ignition.

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