Hundreds of residents, tourists in Italy evacuated due to wildfires


Italian emergency crews ordered hundreds of residents and tourists to leave their residences as wildfires approached Campomarino, on the Adriatic coast, on Sunday evening.

Officials evacuated more than 400 people from their homes, hotels and campsites in the seaside district, according to the fire brigade.

The emergency service shared a video on social media that showed flames approaching a cafe and thick clouds of smoke drifting through the streets. Photos also showed fires consuming people’s homes.

A firefighting plane and a helicopter were deployed to aid firefighters working to douse the flames on the ground.

No casualties were reported, according to the fire brigade.

Devastating forest fires have been raging for days in southern Italy and on the large islands of Sicily and Sardinia.

Heat, drought and winds are causing the flames to spread rapidly. Arson is suspected behind many of the fires.

Meanwhile the country is bracing for a heatwave in the coming days that could increase the danger of even more wildfires breaking out, as emergency crews continued to battle blazes across the south.

“The temperatures that await us in the coming days require the utmost attention,” civil protection agency chief Fabrizio Curcio said on Sunday. It is crucial to avoid any behaviour that causes fires and to report fires in time, even if they are small, Curcio told the public.

He described efforts throughout the south to contain numerous wildfires as “challenging” and “dramatic.”

In Sicily and Sardinia, temperatures could soar to 45 degrees Celsius on Tuesday and Wednesday, the agency said.

On the mainland, firefighters have also battled wildfires in the southern regions of Calabria and Apulia.

The civil protection agency sent reinforcements to Calabria on Sunday after a decree issued by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi allowed the agency to dispatch units and volunteers.

Officials in the Lazio, Campania, Molise, Umbria, Abruzzo and Basilicata regions likewise called for additional firefighting support.

Earlier on Sunday, new fires broke out near the town of San Mauro Castelverde in the province around Palermo, the Ansa news agency reported.

Firefighters have also spent the past day trying to bring a wildfire close to the town of Cesane, near the Adriatic coast, under control.

The Coldiretti agricultural association warned about the damage to agriculture caused by the ongoing drought, especially in the south.

Wheat harvests could fall by 10 per cent, while experts expect yields of cherries, peaches and nectarines to drop by up to 50 per cent, compared with an ordinary year.

Coldiretti suspects the effects of climate change are behind the weather events.

Nature reserves, such as the Aspromonte National Park in Calabria, southern Italy, and the Parco delle Madonie, east of the Sicilian capital, Palermo, meanwhile, faced incalculable damage.

Firefighting aircraft were deployed on Sunday to battle wildfires in the Madonie nature reserve, Ansa reported.

“Once again, protected natural areas are in the grip of devastating fires,” said Giampiero Sammuri, president of the Italian Federation of Parks and Nature Reserves (Federparchi). He called for better monitoring and protection systems in a statement on Saturday.

Near the small town of San Lorenzo, at the edge of the Aspromonte National Park, a man and a woman died in connection with the fires when blazes reached their farm, the fire brigade said on Friday.

Thousands of hectares of forest, pastures, livestock and olive groves have already burnt down. The lack of rain and the drought also favoured the spread of the flames and the actions of arsonists.

On Sunday evening, firefighters said they had brought 12 fires under control.

They have registered 44,500 forest fires since June 15, according to official data, the most seen in this period since 2017. Last year, there were just under 26,200 wildfires during the same period.

Meanwhile in northern Italy, concerns were growing that heavy rainfall could lead to flooding and landslides.

A car and a vehicle were smashed by a landslide in South Tyrol, but no injuries were reported.

But rising water levels were flooding garages and paths.

The weather service had warned of heavy rains: The northern part of the province reported downpours of 87 litres within a day.

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