Mediterranean wildfires claim over 40 lives

OVER 40 lives have been lost in a wildfire outbreak that has swept through Algeria, Italy and Greece, leaving villages and holiday resorts at risk, and prompting the evacuation of thousands.

On Tuesday, July 25, a firefighting aircraft trying to put out the flames in Greece crashed, resulting in the death of two pilots.

The aircraft, which had been tirelessly dropping water to quell the inferno, tragically came down on a hillside near the town of Karystos on the Greek island of Evia, east of Athens.

The brave captain, aged 34, and the co-pilot, aged 27, both lost their lives in the accident, the country’s airforce confirmed.

Greece is bracing for further evacuation flights as fires continue to ravage the islands of Corfu and Evia, with the Civil Protection Ministry warning of “extreme danger” of fire in six of the country’s 13 regions on Wednesday, July 26.

Over 20,000 people have been evacuated from their homes and resorts in the southern region of the holiday hotspot, Rhodes.

To facilitate the evacuations, close to 3,000 holidaymakers have already been flown back to their home countries, according to figures from the Transport Ministry.

The wildfires have dealt a significant blow to Greece’s tourism industry, a crucial pillar of the nation’s economy, and in response to the crisis, tour operators have taken the difficult decision to cancel upcoming trips to the affected areas.

Tourism contributes 18 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and supports one in five jobs.

For islands like Rhodes, the reliance on tourism is even more substantial, making the impact of the wildfires all the more devastating.

Algeria has suffered the highest death toll so far, with 34 victims, including 10 soldiers who found themselves surrounded by flames during an evacuation in the coastal province of Bejaia, east of Algiers.

While Algerian authorities have managed to extinguish 80 per cent of the fire since Sunday, an extensive firefighting operation is ongoing, engaging around 8,000 personnel, hundreds of fire trucks, and several aircraft.






     

     

    The relentless heatwave shows no signs of abating, with temperatures expected to surge beyond 44°C (111°F) in certain parts of Greece.

    Sicily and Puglia in Italy have also been affected, forcing thousands to flee in the face of the advancing flames.

    The combination of high winds and parched vegetation has made firefighting efforts arduous, leaving firefighters struggling to contain the inferno and create effective firebreaks.

    Fires have also raged in neighbouring Tunisia, where 300 people had to be evacuated from the coastal village of Melloula.

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