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Wildfires ravage 6% of Canary Islands as crews tackle blazes in Greece and Italy

Local residents try to clean the forest to prevent it from flames as fire advances in La Orotava in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023.
Local residents try to clean the forest to prevent it from flames as fire advances in La Orotava in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Euronews with AP, AFP
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The fires are still blazing but local authorities hope the worst is now over.

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A wildfire that is raging out of control in the Canary Islands, was started deliberate.

Canary Islands regional President Fernando Clavijo said Sunday that police have opened three lines of investigations but didn't say if there have been any arrests so far. 

Improved weather conditions have helped firefighters make advances in recent days, but the fire has burned 11,600 hectares over an 84 kilometre perimeter, or about 6% of the island's area, and forced more than 12,000 people to flee, according to regional authorities. 

“The night was very difficult but thanks to the work of the firefighters, the results have been very positive,” Tenerife governor Rosa Dávila said at a news conference.

The Canary Islands have been in drought for most of the past few years, like most of mainland Spain. The islands have recorded below-average rainfall in recent years because of changing weather patterns impacted by climate change.

Although the blaze in the northeast of the island is not near the main tourist areas in the southwest, the regional government ordered the evacuation of a state-run hotel in the Teide volcano national park, in central Tenerife, some 50 kilometres southwest of the fire zone. It was not immediately clear how many people were staying at the hotel.

Authorities say that more than 12,000 people have been evacuated from their homes since the fire started last Tuesday. The islands' emergency services said Sunday that 29,000 acres of pine forest and scrubland had been burned.

No injuries have yet been reported, and no houses have been burned so far.

The fire, described as the worst in Tenerife in decades, is threatening 11 town areas flanking a steep and craggy mountain area. Access for firefighters is extremely difficult.

More than 400 firefighters and soldiers have been deployed, as well as 23 water-carrying helicopters and planes.

Arturo Rodriguez/AP
Local residents try to reach their houses in Benijos village as fire advances in La Orotava in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023.Arturo Rodriguez/AP

Wildfires raging in Greece

In Greece, authorities ordered the evacuation of two villages in the central Viotia region, about 100 kilometres northwest of Athens, after a forest fire broke out Monday morning. 

The coast guard put two patrol boats and several fishing boats and private vessels on standby in case an evacuation by sea was necessary.

Authorities said the body of a man was recovered from a sheep pen in the area under evacuation, with local media reporting the man apparently died of smoke inhalation while trying to save his livestock.

In the northeast of the country near the border with Turkey, strong winds rekindled flames on several fronts in a major wildfire burning for a third day across forests and farmland near the town of Alexandroupolis.

Several homes were destroyed over the weekend. Thirteen villages were evacuated, while more than 200 firefighters, assisted by 16 water-dropping planes and seven helicopters, volunteers and the armed forces were battling the fire, government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis said.

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Cyprus was sending two firefighting aircraft to help tackle the Alexandroupolis blaze, including four crew and five ground support staff.

With gale-force winds blowing in several parts of the country, authorities set the fire risk level in several regions, including that of the Greek capital, to “extreme.”

Greece suffers destructive wildfires every summer, which officials say have been exacerbated by climate change.

Extreme heat warnings for Southern countries

In Portugal and Italy, two other southern European countries often plagued by wildfires in the summer months, temperatures were predicted to soar this week.

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Italian authorities issued heat warnings for eight cities from Bolzano in the north to Rome in central Italy on Monday as temperatures were forecast to hit 38°C. Storm warnings were in effect in the southern regions of Calabria, Basilicata and Sicily.

In Portugal, temperatures were forecast to reach 44°C in some southern parts of the country.

And Meteo France has issued orange alerts for much of the country, urging people to be vigilant, as temperatures push towards 40°C.

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