A state of emergency has been declared in Italy to tackle forest fires sweeping across the south of the country during one of the hottest summers on record. The government has said it will decide on the amount of financial aid to send to the hardest-hit areas in the coming days.
The environmental protection organisation WWF – which estimates that up to 9,000 hectares have been destroyed – said it believed most of the blazes were caused by arson motivated by attempts to clear land for development. The authorities in Castrovillari in the south have gone as far as to point the blame at organised crime.
Greece, too, is struggling to cope with unseasonally hot weather. An estimated 15,000 hectares of forest in the Peloponese region alone have already gone up in flames. In the north of the country, the work of the firefighters is made more dangerous by the presence of bombs dating back to the second World War.
At least five firemen have died in Greece since the start of the summer. Russia has vowed to send in extra help including a water-dropping plane.