Heat wave continues to bake southern Europe, causing forest fires

By Frances D’Emilio I Associated Press

ROME – Italy’s intense heat pushed northward towards the popular tourist destination of Florence on Friday as forest fires charred the south of the country, and Spain appeared to be heading for an all-time record temperature of all the times as a heat wave kept southern Europe in a fiery grip.

A man cools off at a fountain in Aci Trezza, near Catania, Sicily, Italy on Friday, August 13, 2021 (Salvatore Cavalli / Associated Press)

Italy has seen temperatures in places above 40 ° C (104 ° F) and Rome has toast. By late Friday afternoon, the heat in Florence reached 39 C (102 F). This city and Bologna also received alerts for Saturday by the Ministry of Health.

Giancarlo Penza, of the Rome-based Catholic charity Sant’Egidio Community, reminded viewers of state television that the most vulnerable these days are the elderly living alone and the homeless.

“(These) are the invisible people, who live on the streets,” said Penza. “Knock on the door of an elderly person” who lives alone, next door, or “stop someone in the street” without a home and ask if he needs help, he urged Italians.

Many countries in southern Europe endured days of intense heat, accompanied by deadly forest fires in Algeria, Turkey, Italy and Greece.

While the region is known for its hot and sunny summers, scientists are no doubt expressing that climate change due to the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is causing extreme events such as sea waves. heat, droughts and forest fires. Such difficulties are likely to occur more frequently as the Earth continues to warm, they say.

The forest fire problems will only get worse due to the abandonment of rural areas and climate change, the Cyprus Environment Minister said. The eastern Mediterranean, where the island nation is located, is a “hotspot of global climate change”, where biodiversity and forest ecosystems are “intensely negatively impacted,” Minister Costas Kadis told The Associated Press on Friday.

Unworked farmland is overrun by wild growth, making it a breeding ground for fires, which are increasingly “intense, destructive and frequent” due to more frequent and longer heat waves and droughts, said the minister.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi sent his emergency chief to Calabria in the south, where fires burning for days in the rugged Aspromonte forest have left four dead.

Draghi pledged government aid for those who lose property or businesses and an “extraordinary reforestation plan”.

Forest fires on the Italian island of Sardinia have been reported largely contained, but a fire on Friday morning near Tivoli in the countryside east of Rome forced the evacuation of 25 families.

Tivoli’s 16th-century Villa d’Este and the ancient ruins of Hadrian’s Villa are tourist attractions.

Italian firefighters were also battling fires near Mount Etna, the Sicilian volcano that has been spitting flames and lava for months. Authorities said fires had broken out in separate places in the woods, raising suspicion that they had been caused by people, either deliberately or accidentally.

On Greece’s second-largest island, Euboea, where devastating fires following an exceptional heat wave this summer were described as the country’s worst environmental disaster in decades, another blaze broke out on Friday.

Spain’s state meteorological agency recorded 45 C (113 F) at Granada airport at 3 p.m.

Elsewhere in scorching southern Spain, in the city of Malaga, Juan Villodres was doing a quick business selling cold drinks at a kiosk. “The heat wave this year is getting more and more intense, and the last one so strong was in 2019,” Villodres said.

A woman uses an umbrella for protection as she walks past the Royal Palace during a heat wave in Madrid, Spain, Friday, August 13, 2021 (Andrea Comas / Associated Press)

Spain was bracing for even warmer weather. Temperatures as high as 47 ° C (116.60 ° F) are forecast in the south on Saturday. This would break a national record of 46.9 C (116.4 F), set in Cordoba in July 2017.

On Wednesday, the Italian town of Floridia, near the city of Syracuse in Sicily, reported a temperature of 48.8 ° C (119.8 ° F).

A World Meteorological Organization official said at a briefing in Geneva on Friday that it could take a month or two to verify the reading and determine if this is indeed a record for continental Europe. , exceeding the previous 48 C established in Athens in 1977.

The French national meteorological agency warned of temperatures of up to 40 ° C on Friday and Saturday in the Provence region, near the border with Italy.

Temperatures in Portugal on Saturday and Sunday were expected to reach 40 degrees Celsius. In much of the country, with a greatly increased risk of forest fires, the public has been banned from entering forested areas and is prohibited from using fireworks or agricultural machinery that could cause sparks.

In Serbia, the army has deployed water tanks and authorities have called on residents to avoid watering gardens. A drought lasting several weeks worries livestock owners, especially in remote villages in hilly areas.

Associated Press editors Menelaos Hadjicostis, Barry Hatton, Jamey Keaten, Elena Becatoros, Jovana Gec, Sylvie Corbet and Sergio Rodrigo in Malaga contributed to this report.

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