Fires ravage southern Europe and force residents and tourists to evacuate – ZAP


Erdem Sahin / EPA

Dozens of villages and hotels were evacuated this Sunday in tourist areas in southern Turkey due to fires that started five days ago and have already killed eight people in the country, also devastating regions in Greece, Italy and Spain.

Countries around the Mediterranean, heavily dependent on tourism receipts, which they have been deprived of because of the covid-19 pandemic, are facing scorching temperatures and more than normal forest fires.

Turkey currently registers the worst fires of the last decade, with almost 95,000 hectares burned since January, when, between the years 2008 and 2020, the average for this time of year used to be around 13,516 hectares burned.

The bodies of two people were found in the city of Manavgat, in Antalya province, bringing the death toll to eight, said Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, in a message released today on the social network Twitter.

The two dead were a Turkish-German couple who were at home when the building burned down, according to the state news agency Anatolia.

According to the same governess, the number of people who had to receive medical treatment due to the fires rose to 864 since Wednesday, and more than 1,100 tourists had to be picked up by boat – because the roads were impassable – from the Turkish tourist resort of Bodrum.

Also in Marmaris, in the province of Mugla, many people had to be evacuated by boat, with the help of the Navy, the Ministry of Defense said.

According to the Turkish Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Bekir Pakdemirli, 111 forest fires are currently under control, but fires remain intense in the regions of Antalya, Mugla and Tunceli (east).

Temperatures are expected to remain high after last month’s highs, with an emphasis on 49.1° reached on July 20 in Cizre, Anatolia, in the far southeast of Turkey.

According to the local meteorological institute, mercury is expected to rise, on Monday, to 40° in Antalya.

The Turkish Ministry of Defense has released satellite images that show the extent of damage to the forests, which are completely black and full of ash, and smoke is still visible.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the target of criticism when it was discovered that the Turkey had no water bomber planes, since a third of the territory is made up of forests.

According to data released by the European Union, Turkey has been devastated by 133 fires since the beginning of the year, which compares with an average of 43 fires between 2008 and 2020.

Burnt houses in Greece

In Greece, firefighters also fought this Sunday against a fire that broke out on Saturday due to high temperatures that are felt in the northwest of the Peloponnese peninsula, near the town of Patras.

Eight people were hospitalized with respiratory problems and burns and five villages were evacuated.

“The disaster is huge,” admitted Dimitris Kalogeropoulos, mayor of Aigialeias, a village close to the fire.

In the villages of Ziria, Kamares, Achaias, Labiri, almost 30 houses, agricultural warehouses and stables burned and entire fields of olive trees were destroyed, according to the local newspaper Patrastimes.

“We slept outside at night, afraid that we would no longer have a home when we woke up!” explained Skai, a Labiri resident, on Greek television.

The seaside resort of Loggos was also evacuated, with 100 residents and tourists being transported on Saturday night by the coast guard to the port of Aigio, a few kilometers ahead.

Almost 13,500 hectares have already burned in Greece since the beginning of the year, which compares with an average of 7,500 hectares that were registered at this stage of the year between 2008 and 2020.

After devastating fires in Sardinia last weekend, Italy counted more than 800 forest fires this weekend, mainly in the south of the country, firefighters said on the social network Twitter.

“In the last 24 hours, firefighters carried out more than 800 interventions: 250 in Sicily, 130 in Puglia and Calabria, 90 in Lazio (Rome region) and 70 in Campania”, the firefighters said in the message.

In Spain, affected in mid-July by a fire in a natural park on the Catalan coast near the French border, firefighters fought this weekend against a fire near the San Juan reservoir, about 70 kilometers from Madrid.