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Italy: Are arsonists to blame for the devastating wildfires in Sicily?

A member of anti-forest fire team puts out flames burning in Capaci, near Palermo, in Sicily, southern Italy.
A member of anti-forest fire team puts out flames burning in Capaci, near Palermo, in Sicily, southern Italy. Copyright Alberto Lo Bianco/LaPresse
Copyright Alberto Lo Bianco/LaPresse
By Sophia Khatsenkova
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Twitter users have been sharing a video of a man purposefully setting fire to a forest, claiming it's arson - not climate change - that's to blame for the current wildfires in Sicily.

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Wildfires have been raging across southern Europe, in particular in Greece and on the Italian island of Sicily – forcing thousands to flee.

The blazes have forced residents and tourists to evacuate and caused severe public transport disruption. 

Multiple Twitter accounts are blaming arsonists in Sicily – not climate change – for starting the deadly fires there – sharing a video they claim is evidence. 

In the clip, a man on a motorcycle is seen stopping on the side of a road lined with vegetation. 

He can be seen leaning over as if to light a fire. The video then cuts and a plume of smoke can be seen starting to form. 

"His name has not yet been released... So we will call him "Mr. Climate Change," responsible for starting a forest fire near Palermo in Italy," wrote one user ironically.

"The fires in Palermo are not linked to global warming, but to arsonists," claimed a French Twitter account.

By doing a reverse image search, Euronews found the original video. It wasn’t filmed in Sicily and has nothing to do with the wildfires this year.

The clip actually dates back to 2021 and was filmed near the Italian city of Potenza, close to Naples. 

According to local media reports, the 47-year-old arsonist in the video was caught and put under house arrest in September 2021, facing up to 10 years in prison for purposefully starting the fire. 

However, the origin of multiple wildfires all over Sicily at the moment remains to be determined.

In an interview with Sky Italy, the mayor of the Sicilian capital Palermo, Roberto Lagalla, said he believes the cause of the disastrous fires can only be arson. 

But for the President of the Sicilian Region, Renato Schifani, "the situation is delicate and unprecedented, because of the very high temperatures, combined with arson, that are creating this immense damage," he told TP24

According to the French Ministry of Ecological Transition, 9 out of 10 forest fires are caused by humans, mostly due to carelessness. 

But heatwaves and droughts due to climate change are making forest fires more frequent and more intense. 

Hot weather and low rainfall have dried out larges areas of land across Europe, creating the optimal condition for fires to spread, according to this year’s IPCC report.

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