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26 Jul, 2023 17:55

Dozens dead and thousands evacuated as wildfires ravage Europe – media (VIDEO)

Thousands of tourists have had to leave several Greek islands and flights have been cancelled
Dozens dead and thousands evacuated as wildfires ravage Europe – media (VIDEO)

Wildfires have devastated swathes of Southern Europe and Northern Africa in the midst of near-record high temperatures. Over 40 people have died in the last week, despite authorities across the area declaring on Wednesday that the worst was over.

The fires claimed 34 lives in Algeria, state broadcaster EPTV reported on Monday, with 10 of the victims said to be soldiers attempting to evacuate the coastal province of Bejaia. The fires were declared contained by the country’s civil protection services in a statement on Wednesday after over 8,000 firefighters were deployed to contain them.

At least four people have died in Italy as 10 separate fires raged in the south of the country, according to news agency ANSA. The victims included a 98-year-old man in his Reggio Calabria home, two people in their 70s in their home in Palermo, and an 88-year old woman. Some parts of the country have seen record-breaking temperatures soar to 47.4 C, close to 2021’s continent-wide record of 48.8 C.

Footage from Sicily posted to social media showed entire stretches of road and hillside in flames. 

More than 20,000 people have been evacuated from homes and vacation spots on the Greek island of Rhodes, which has declared a state of emergency, while thousands have also been forced to leave the islands of Evia and Corfu while the island of Crete is on high alert. Greece’s civil protection ministry warned of “extreme danger” from fire in six of the country’s 13 regions on Wednesday.

The UK holiday airlines Jet2 and Tui have canceled all departures to Rhodes, while an airport official told AFP that over 5,000 people had left the island on emergency flights between Sunday and Tuesday. 

In Tunisia, wildfires forced the evacuation of 300 people from the coastal village of Melloula. Türkiye saw wildfires break out in the southern province of Antalya. Croatia also reported wildfires south of Dubrovnik on Monday, though its fire service confirmed on Wednesday that these were under control. 

Some officials have leveraged the tragedy to advocate for climate change policy. “The climate upheaval demands a step change from all of us, with no alibis for anyone,” Italian Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci said in a statement on Tuesday. 

The World Weather Attribution group released a report on Monday claiming that if humans had not heated the planet by burning fossil fuels, heat waves like the one currently engulfing Europe would be impossible. Europe endured similar conditions last year, with 61,000 people dying of heat-related conditions in 2022.