Fires burn in southern Europe

Stephan Agostini

Our firefighter friends in Europe have been very busy.

From Timesonline:

Rescue boats and fire fighters evacuated about 70 holidaymakers trapped on a beach in Greece last night as wild fires tore across the Mediterranean and experts warned that rising winds may spread the flames further.

The rescue operation on the Ionian island of Zakynthos is the latest emergency evacuation forced by more than 320 fires in Greece alone. Firefighters are trying to control blazes in five countries along the northern Mediterranean rim after a week that left eight people dead.

Tens of thousands of hectares of countryside have been devastated in Italy, Spain, Croatia, France and Greece with initial estimates suggesting that the insurance bill will run into hundreds of millions of euros.

Three coastguard boats off the Greek island carried a group of people, mainly women and children, to safety on a bigger vessel, while dozens of fire fighters opened a path through the flames for the rest to return to their cars on the island. It is not known if any British tourists were among those stranded on the beach.

A merchant marine official said: “We transferred 20 people on a vessel and fire fighters helped the rest walk through the fire.”

On the Italian island of Sardinia, as many as 60,000 acres have been scorched by a clutch of enormous fires fanned by high temperatures and a stronger than usual Mistral wind.

Ten specialist water-dropping planes, including two sent in by the European Union, were trying to douse flames while volunteers helped to rake through the embers of destroyed homes and businesses.

Amid the ashes, there have been recriminations in Sardinia, where a shepherd and a farmer were killed trying to protect their animals. Many have blamed the powerful fires on criminals and vandals.

“It is unacceptable that in our region there are still criminal minds capable of such acts,” said Ugo Cappellacci, the head of the Sardinian region, at the funeral of one of the victims.


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