Firefighters battle the flames in Alto do Alvide, Cascais, Portugal, 25 July 2023. EFE/EPA/MANUEL DE ALMEIDA

More than 40 people dead as wildfires burn across Mediterranean

Algiers/Athens/Paris/Rome Jul 26 (EFE).- Deadly wildfires have killed over 40 people in countries across the entire Mediterranean area and prompted the evacuation of thousands.

Unprecedented heatwaves this summer in southern Europe and North Africa have sent temperatures soaring, while strong winds that have stoked hundreds of devastating wildfires.


In Algeria, at least 34 people have died in forest fires that have scorched several areas in the northeast of the country.
Authorities have arrested 19 people for their alleged involvement in spreading fires that have been raging since Sunday.

A forest fire burns near the village of Zberber, Bouira province in the mountainous Kabyle region, Algeria, 24 July 2023. EFE/EPA/STR

The Algerian Prosecutor’s Office said that the detainees could be referred to the anti-terrorism and organized crime department in the capital if the charges against them are verified.

Civil Protection services announced Wednesday that 80% of wildfires had been extinguished after a massive operation.

Following last week’s extreme weather, when 50C was recorded in the shade, a drop in temperatures and weaker winds were reported on Wednesday.

Authorities said 13 fires were still active in seven northern and eastern provinces, down from the 97 that were reported from Sunday.


Major forest fires were reported on three Greek islands Wednesday with thousands of firefighters and volunteers working to tame the flames.

A state of emergency was declared on the Greek island of Rhodes Wednesday as some 270 firefighters working with 55 vehicles, 4 helicopters and 3 tanker planes worked to put out fires that have been raging for nine days straight and have ravaged over 14,000 hectares of land.

According to public broadcaster ERT, some 3,000 volunteers are helping to contain the fires that remain out of control and are threatening populated areas over much of the center and the southern tip of the island.

A firefighting helicopter drops water at the scene of a Canadair CL-215 firefighting aircraft crash which were battling Karystos wildfire, in Platanisto, southern Evia, Greece 25 July 2023. EFE/EPA/GEORGE VITSARAS

Some 19,000 people, including 7,000 tourists, were moved to safety over the weekend in what was Greece’s largest evacuation operation in history.

“Today will also be a difficult day,” the spokesman for the Fire Department, Yannis Artopiós, told SKAI television Wednesday, as firefighters braced themselves for stronger winds.

On the island of Euboea, northeast of Athens, two pilots died when a tanker plane crashed on Tuesday.

The situation has since improved somewhat as firefighters battle small scattered blazes, but the wind could pick up again, meteorological experts warned.

In Corfu, another large forest fire continues to rage out of control for a fourth consecutive day.

The flames spread towards the north coast of the island on Tuesday, forcing the authorities to evacuate at least four coastal towns, while several houses burned in the town of Lutses.

Some 500 wildfires were reported in Greece from July 13, a daily average of up to 70 fires.

In the last seven days, at least 34,000 hectares of forest and agricultural land have been scorched, the Kathimerini daily reported.

According to the National Meteorological Service (EMY), extreme temperatures of up to 46C were expected Wednesday although these will drop significantly from Thursday.


Emergency teams on Tuesday located five bodies, including three elderly people, on the outskirts of the city of Palermo, on the island of Sicily in southern Italy.

The latest heat wave has seen record temperatures of 46C which have aggravated the fire ripping through Palermo and in some areas, water and electricity services have been cut off.

Police officers help locals put out a wildfire approaching houses in Palermo, Sicily, southern Italy, 25 July 2023. EFE/EPA/Francesco Militello Mirto

The fire has also forced the closure of some wards in the Cervello hospital and the evacuation of more than 1,500 people.

Sicilian authorities have requested international aid to deal with the “very difficult” scenario made worse by adverse weather conditions that have also forced the closure of Palermo airport.

Fires have also broken out in southern Italy, in the Puglia region, and have affected the provinces of Foggia, Lecce and Calabria;
Two others were killed during a violent storm in the northern city of Milan on Tuesday after gusts of wind caused the collapse of trees.


Fires were also reported in Tunisia, where one person died.

In Portugal, a blaze has injured 13 people in the town of Cascais, some 35 kilometers from Lisbon. Authorities reported on Wednesday that the fire was under control.

In Turkey, a fire in the tourist province of Antalya has scorched 60 hectares of land, according to the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry.

Some 200 hectares of forest were burnt on the northern side of the French island of Corsica late on Tuesday.

Authorities said the fire was stabilized as 200 firefighters worked to put out the flames and the regional government of Upper Corsica said there had been no casualties or material damage reported. EFE