GFMC: Forest Fires in Southern Europe, 28 August 2000

Forest Fires in Southern Europe

28 August 2000

A state of emergency has been declared on the Greek holiday island of Corfu after fires risked running out of control. The blazes are among a series of fires raging across Europe, forcing evacuations in Corsica, road closures in Croatia and several deaths and many injuries on mainland Greece. The Corfu crisis arose after strong winds and high temperatures sparked a number of major forest fires across the island’s mountain region. A number of houses and cars are reported to have been destroyed, several villages have been evacuated and at least seven firefighters are being treated in hospital for the effects of smoke inhalation. On the Greek mainland, meanwhile, firefighters spent the weekend tackling some of the region’s worst fires for decades. Authorities said gusting winds have dropped off, helping firefighters contain the fires that killed seven people on Thursday and Friday. Hundreds of fires have broken out around the country razing homes and sweeping across 150,000 hectares of forest.

Much of southern Europe has been ravaged by fires throughout the summer as a result of prolonged drought and heat wave. Thirty people were evacuated from the Corsican village of Vivario on Saturday night as fresh outbreaks came dangerously close to homes. Firefighters on the Mediterranean island struggled to control fires on Sunday that have consumed more than 8,650 acres (3,500 hectares) of forest.

In Croatia, authorities closed sections of the Adriatic coastal road near the southern resort of Dubrovnik as fires raged in the region, state radio said on Sunday. Firefighters, helped by volunteers, were still battling to contain several blazes that have burned large areas of forest and bush, threatening villages and resorts on the coast. Their efforts were seriously hampered by strong offshore winds. One volunteer firefighter has been killed and several injured over the past few days.

Corsican firefighters faced similar challenges with at least 10 separate fires. More looked set to break out as the hot winds that have fanned the flames gained strength. Another 300 firefighters were scheduled to arrive late on Sunday to help exhausted colleagues battle the fires that broke out in the Restonica forest near Corte. The fires have raged for six days destroying woodland in Vizzavona, Ghisoni and near the island’s main town, Ajaccio. The Restonica blaze has destroyed at least 1,500 hectares of pines, chestnut and olive trees — more than 25 percent of the scenic forest.

(Information Source: The Associated Press & Reuters, 28 August 2000)

The SeaWiFS Project is a part of NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise, which is designed to look at our planet from space to better understand it as a system in both behavior and evolution. The air over the Mediterranean Sea is thick with smoke and dust today. This SeaWiFS image shows most of the Algerian coastline to be on fire.

click here to enlarge (159 KB) click here to enlarge (410 KB)

Mediterranean Smoke and Dust
(Source: SeaWIFS)

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