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Wildfire breaks out east of Rome, locals evacuated

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Locals were evacuated from small communities around 40 km (25 miles) east of Rome on Friday when a wildfire broke out as the Italian capital faced temperatures of around 37 degrees Celsius (99 Fahrenheit).

Swathes of southern Italy have been plagued by wildfires in recent weeks, with flames ravaging woodland in Calabria, in the toe of the Italian boot, and on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.

Wednesday saw the temperature reach almost 49 Celsius in south-eastern Sicily, reported as the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe.

The heatwave is now moving north and overnight 25 families were evacuated from their homes as fires spread through the nature reserve of Monte Catillo, near the Rome suburb of Tivoli, firefighters said in a tweet.

Around 30 residents of a home for poor children and orphans were also evacuated to escape the flames.

Wildfires also broke out overnight near the town of Otranto, in Italy’s southern heel, firefighters said. A nearby seaside resort was evacuated due to the choking smoke and the coastal road heading south from Otranto was closed to traffic.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Thursday promised financial help for communities hit by the fires, and a plan of action to replant forest areas and make the Italian countryside more resilient to natural disasters. 

Photo: A firefighting plane douse the forest fire consuming the Catillo hill in Tivoli, near Rome, Italy. EPA-EFE/MASSIMO PERCOSSI