Southern Europe battles wildfires as north cleans up after floods

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Wildfires burned in regions across southern Europe, fuelled by hot weather and strong winds, as some northern countries cleaned up after a weekend of torrential rain and flooding.

In Greece, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said firefighters had battled around 50 fires during the past 24 hours and it was likely there would be more with meteorologists warning that a further heatwave was in prospect.

“I want to emphasize that August remains a difficult month,” he said. “That is why it is important for all of us, all state services, to be on absolute alert until the firefighting period is formally over.”

Fire service officials said negligence on farms and construction sites had been behind several incidents, many of which were in the southern Peloponnese region. No casualties were reported.

Conditions in southern Europe were in sharp contrast to the torrential rainstorms that lashed northern countries from Austria to Britain following the catastrophic flooding in Germany and neighbouring countries last week.

On the Italian island of Sardinia, firefighting planes from France and Greece reinforced local aircraft battling blazes across the island where more than 4,000 hectares of forest were burnt and more than 350 people evacuated.

In Sicily, fires broke out near the western town of Erice.

In Spain, the northeastern region of Catalonia saw more than 1,500 hectares destroyed near Santa Coloma de Queralt, forcing dozens to be evacuated, although the blazes were 90% stabilized on Monday, firefighters and authorities said.

In Lietor, in the central east region of Castilla-La Mancha, more than 2,500 hectares burned during the weekend before being brought under control, authorities said.

So far this year, wildfires have burned across 35,000 hectares in Spain, still some way off the 138,000 hectares burned in 2012, the worst year of the past decade.

Photo: Firfighters at work to extinguish a wildfire in the area of Stamata, in north-eastern Athens, Greece. Firefighting forces are operating in the area of Stamata, in the Attica region, to contain a wildfire that broke out earlier in the day. Some 22 fire engines with 68 crew members, three teams of firemen on foot, the municipality’s water trucks along with four firefighting aircraft, and five water dropping helicopters are currently battling the blaze which is very close to inhabited areas. In the meanwhile, the Civil Protection’s emergency number 112 was activated in the wider region of Stamata and Rodopoli informing the citizens to be on alert and follow authorities’ instructions. EPA-EFE/YANNIS KOLESIDIS

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