March 3, 2024

Greece fires update: Wildfires hit nine countries from Portugal to Turkey as Met Office warns UK could be next

Plane fighting wildfires in Evia crashes

More than 40 people have been killed in Europe as wildfires engulfed more swaths of land on Wednesday, destroying homes and livelihoods and threatening nature reserves amid one of the fiercest heatwaves ever.

Thousands of firefighters worked to contain the blazes in parts of Greece and eight other Mediterranean countries, and the entire island of Rhodes was put into a state of emergency for six months.

High temperatures and winds have created a “perfect storm” to allow the fires to spread in Portugal, Turkey, Italy, France, Croatia and Spain.

Temperatures are expected to peak on Wednesday, exceeding 44C in some areas of Greece.

New evacuation orders were issued for areas close to two central Greek cities after fresh wildfires killed two people. Blazes continued to rage on the islands of Rhodes, Corfu and Evia.

Meanwhile, in its annual State of the UK Climate report, the Met Office warned temperatures higher than 40C, summer droughts, grassfires and downpours will increase in both frequency and severity.

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Fire flare-ups in Rhodes as state of emergency declared

Firefighters and civilians battling the nine-day wildfires ravaging Rhodes are contending with continuous flare-ups fuelled by unpredictable winds, as temperatures neared a scorching 40C.

Greece’s civil protection agency extended the state of emergency across the entirety of Rhodes on Wednesday, which will remain in place for six months, “to deal with emergencies and manage the consequences of catastrophic forestry fire”.

In the town of Malonas, which was evacuated on Saturday, The Independent watched on alongside exhausted volunteers as a section of the charred forest nearby reignited.

Andy Gregory reports from Rhodes.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar27 July 2023 07:30

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Are Greece wildfires caused by climate change?

Wildfires have raged across Greece for days, triggering large-scale evacuations, rescue flights for British tourists and warnings from officials that things may yet get worse.

While the cause of the blazes has not officially been identified, local authorities have suggested at least some could have been the work of arsonists.

But climate science and fire risk specialists say it’s undeniable that rising temperatures and prolonged heatwaves mean the fires in the Mediterranean country have spread faster and burned over larger areas.

Maanya Sachdeva has more.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar27 July 2023 07:00

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Civilians tackle persistent blazes in hills of Rhodes for ninth night

Volunteer firefighters were out in the hills of Rhodes again late on Wednesday for the ninth night running, as they sought to dampen persistent blazes.

One volunteer in the hills above the inland village of Malonas spoken to by The Independent at around 10:30pm local time said they were waiting “on lookout” for flare-ups, with the tanks of water on their vehicles still full – in a positive sign the fires there were finally subsiding.

Others were some 25 kilometres further south in Vati, a village nestled between olive groves and pine trees, in an area where firefighting efforts had been most intense on Wednesday.

Local outlet Rodiaki reported that there were three fronts constantly rekindling near Vati and Gennadi – but, as in Malonas, were hoped to ease significantly overnight.

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Andy Gregory in Rhodes27 July 2023 06:32

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Where are the Italy wildfires as temperatures rise to 47.6C in Sicily?

Travel on and off the Italian island of Sicily has been disrupted after wildfires fuelled by extreme temperatures broke out.

Videos and photos show the fires ravaging the island holiday destination, including two of the main airports at Catania and Palermo.

Flames also threatened the ancient archaeological site of Segesta, which had to be closed temporarily to check for any damage.

The Messina area of Sicily has also seen wildfires breakout, with photos showing flames engulfing part of the village of Curcuraci.

Temperatures rose to 47.6C in some parts of the island on Monday, sparking at least 55 separate blazes.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar27 July 2023 06:05

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Two killed as wildfire erupts on Greek mainland

Wildfires that have been supercharged by strong winds and temperatures exceeding 40C killed two people in central Greece yesterday, forcing a new wave of evacuations.

At least 61 wildfires erupted across Greece in the last 24 hours, the fire brigade said. Officials ordered the evacuation of several communities in the hard-hit area of Magnesia, a coastal area north of Athens.

The body of a 45-year-old shepherd was found in a rural area last evening, the fire brigade said. Earlier, authorities had found the body of a woman, state TV ERT said.

Both deaths were attributed to the fires.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar27 July 2023 05:40

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When will heatwave in Europe end?

Southern European countries suffering from a sizzling heatwave for weeks can finally hope for some respite as a new forecast reveals “subtle changes in the jet stream” that are expected to bring temperatures down.

With shattered temperature records, devastating wildfires in Greece and tragic loss of lives, people have been anxiously awaiting relief from intense heat conditions that gripped Europe this month.

The latest forecast from the UK’s Met Office offers a glimmer of hope as conditions are projected to shift slightly, indicating the weakening of the heat dome that enveloped the southern part of the continent.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar27 July 2023 05:12

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The nine affected countries mapped

Wildfires continue to burn across at least nine countries in Europe and North Africa, forcing mass evacuations as firefighters battle on in tinderbox conditions.

Greece, France, Portugal, Spain, Gran Canaria, Italy, Croatia, and Turkey have seen raging fires this week as extreme heat billows over the countries.

The Greek Fire Brigade has already been battling more than 500 fires for almost two weeks, while the high temperatures of the recent new heatwave are set to exceed 44C in some areas of Greece.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain has more.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar27 July 2023 04:40

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UK Met Office warns temperature higher than 40C will be frequent in future

In its annual State of the UK Climate report, the Met Office analysed the weather of 2022 and warned temperatures higher than 40C, summer droughts, grassfires and downpours will increase in both frequency and severity.

A severe heatwave gripped the country last summer, as a new temperature record was set (40.3C) and numerous wildfires were reported across Britain. More than 3,000 heat-related deaths were recorded in England and Wales during five “heat periods” between June and August 2022, according to a joint report by the Office of National Statistics and the UK Health Security Agency.

While 2022 was an “extraordinary” year for the UK in terms of weather and climate, the Met Office said these conditions “are a potential warning of what we should expect in the future” as a result of human-caused climate change.

Maanya Sachdeva has more.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar27 July 2023 04:21

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We refuse to cancel, say tourists flying into Greek inferno

British tourists on an easyJet flight to Rhodes have said they refuse to let wildfires ruin their holiday – despite thousands of others heading back home from “holiday hell”. Andy Gregory reports:

Jane Dalton27 July 2023 04:00

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Wildfires and climate change: the link

But climate science and fire-risk specialists say it’s undeniable that rising temperatures and prolonged heatwaves mean the fires in the Mediterranean country have spread faster and burned over larger areas:

Jane Dalton27 July 2023 03:00

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