Wildfires continue to wreak havoc across Southern Europe and Northern Africa, causing widespread devastation and claiming the lives of over 40 people. Despite authorities stating that the worst was over, the fires have persisted, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.
In Algeria, the fires have claimed the lives of 34 individuals, including 10 soldiers who were attempting to evacuate the coastal province of Bejaia. The country’s civil protection services declared the fires contained on Wednesday after deploying over 8,000 firefighters to combat the flames.
Italy has also been severely affected, with at least four deaths reported due to 10 separate fires in the south of the country. Among the victims were a 98-year-old man in Reggio Calabria, two people in their 70s in Palermo, and an 88-year-old woman. Record-breaking temperatures reaching 47.4 degrees Celsius have been recorded in certain parts of Italy, approaching the continent-wide record set in 2021.
Footage shared on social media has shown alarming scenes in Sicily, where entire stretches of road and hillside have been engulfed by flames. The situation has prompted the evacuation of more than 20,000 people from homes and vacation spots on the Greek island of Rhodes, which has declared a state of emergency. Additionally, evacuation orders have been issued for the islands of Evia and Corfu, while Crete remains on high alert. The Greek civil protection ministry has cited “extreme danger” from fires in six of the country’s 13 regions.
The impact of the wildfires has extended beyond the affected regions, disrupting travel plans for thousands of tourists. UK holiday airlines Jet2 and Tui have canceled all departures to Rhodes, and over 5,000 people have already left the island on emergency flights. Tunisia has also faced wildfires, leading to the evacuation of 300 individuals from the coastal village of Melloula. Meanwhile, wildfires broke out in the southern province of Antalya in Turkey, and Croatia reported wildfires south of Dubrovnik. Fortunately, Croatian authorities have confirmed that the fires in their region are now under control.
In the face of this tragedy, some officials have emphasized the urgent need for climate change policy. Italian Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci highlighted the demands posed by climate upheaval, calling for collective action. The World Weather Attribution group released a report asserting that without human-induced climate change, heat waves like the one the world is currently experiencing would be impossible. Last year, Europe faced similar conditions, resulting in the deaths of 61,000 people due to heat-related conditions.
The wildfires in Southern Europe and Northern Africa serve as a stark reminder of the devastating consequences of rising temperatures and climate change. As the fires continue to rage on, it is essential for governments and communities to come together to address the underlying issues and mitigate the future risk of such disasters.