South Europe – Firefighters stretched by southern Europe’s second heat wavein a month battled deadly wildfires on Thursday that killed three Greeksand ravaged areas in forests in Italy and Macedonia.
Fuelled by bone-dry conditions and intense temperatures, the brush firesgutted dozens of homes in at least eight Greek villages. Three people werekilled Wednesday by fire that engulfed the southern Greek town of Aegio and an81-year-old woman in the northern part of the country also died from the heat,officials said.
Stranded townspeople had to be airlifted by helicopter out of the town.
Two Greek pilots trying to douse a forest fire were killed Monday. At least 38 people have died of heat-related causes in southern Europe in recent days.
Smog and the 45 C temperatures outside Athens on Wednesday put the Greek capital on alert with warnings for the elderly and sick to stay hydrated and remain indoors. Greece’s electricity grid has been pushed to its breaking point.
High winds also fanned flames across the Greek-Macedonian border, devastating areas of forest.
Macedonia’s Crisis Management Centre called this fire season one of the harsher years ever recorded in the country. Some 2,000 firefighters were dispatched to battle dozens of blazes.
It was a similar situation in central and southern Italy, where fire officials discovered incendiary devices at one site, elevating suspicions that at least some blazes were the work of arson. Some builders may have wanted to clear protected forests to make way for new construction sites.
Arson was also suspected in the destruction of about 100 hectares of forest in western Bulgaria.
Photo: A fire burns next to houses in the village of Mavriki near the town of Egio, Greece, on Wednesday. (Associated Press)
Relief was on the way, however. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscowwould send firefighting aircraft to Greece on Friday and temperatures weredeclining in Italy, no longer topping 40 C but coming closer to the low 30s inmost of the country on Thursday.
Cooler air was also expected in Romania where officials have attributed33 deaths due to heat although rain was not in the forecast for Thursday.
Hungary was perhaps hardest hit, with health officials blaming 500 deaths ofsick and elderly to medical conditions that were aggravated by the extremetemperatures.