Serbia–– Serbia evacuated thousands of villagers on Saturday and called in the army to help fight wildfires raging through the drought-hit western Balkans.
Fires near the southwestern Serbian town of Cacak swept through hillsides and cornfields dried to a crisp by scorching temperatures, forcing the evacuation of three villages, a Reuters correspondent reported.
“I’ve lost everything,” said Mileta Cajic, from the village of Srezojevci. “An entire orchard, woods, raspberries, and now my house is about to go up in flames. This is the worst disaster one could imagine.”
Russia sent a Beriev Be-200 fire-fighting plane, with a capacity of 12 tonnes, to join a Russian helicopter that has been in action for days trying to douse the fires.
The Serbian Interior Ministry said it had called up the army and the police gendarmerie to fight fires threatening the villages of Srezojevci, Gornja Gorevnica and Miokovci near Cacak.
Predrag Maric, head of the ministry’s Emergencies Department, said the situation was “extremely serious.”
“We are relocating manpower from throughout Serbia as well as helicopters to fight this,” Maric told Reuters.
The state news agency Tanjug reported that three people had been hurt trying to battle the flames, including one firefighter, but it did not specify how seriously.
The western Balkans is in a heatwave that has seen temperatures top 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), triggering hundreds of wildfires.
Serbia and neighbouring Bosnia appear to be worst hit.
Police said the worst fires were in the Cacak region and the western Tara National Park, a popular tourist spot.
Fires also burned in the eastern Bosnian region of Bratunac, where helicopters of the European Union’s Bosnian peacekeeping force were deployed on Friday to help the fight.