Across southern Europe and North Africa, unrelenting flames have burned through homes, including in popular vacation spots such the Italian island of Sicily and the Greek island of Rhodes — where thousands of tourists and residents have fled in the country’s largest ever fire evacuation.
Albania hits all-time high as heat blasts southern Europe and fires rage
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned people to brace for “difficult” days ahead, with some respite expected later this week from the record heat on the continent, before temperatures are forecast to once again surge.
“All of us are standing guard. In the face of what the entire planet is facing, especially the Mediterranean which is a climate change hot spot, there is no magical defense mechanism,” he said.
He said the country is mourning the deaths of its pilots in the crash on Tuesday on the island of Evia. “They offered their lives to save lives,” Mitsotakis said. The Greek air force said the two Canadair pilots, Christos Moulas, 34, and
Pericles Stefanidis, 27, were both killed, and the armed forces announced three days of mourning.
Greece’s state broadcaster ERT aired footage showing a yellow aircraft releasing water to douse burning trees before appearing to crash and burst into flames.
In the last 24 hours, firefighters battled flames on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria, the coastal Portuguese town of Cascais, near the seaside resort of Kemer in southern Turkey, and the Croatian city of Dubrovnik.
The highest death toll was recorded in Algeria, where at least 34 people were killed, including 10 soldiers engulfed by a blaze they were tackling.
In Photos: Algeria wildfires kill dozens as heat wave hits North Africa
Algeria’s Interior Ministry said emergency services had extinguished around 80 percent of the fires as of Tuesday, but firefighting efforts with nearly 8,000 personnel, hundreds of firetrucks and aircraft are ongoing. In neighboring Tunisia, some residents of a border down inspected the charred damage of a blaze that had pushed people to evacuate.
In Italy, where parts of the north were pummeled by giant hailstones while the south sizzled, flames raging near Palermo airport led to its closure earlier this week. The airport on the Mediterranean island of Sicily reopened Tuesday after several hours, but with limited flights only due to the extreme weather.
Sicilian President Renato Schifani said three people had been killed, with the fires bringing “one of the most difficult days in decades” to the island. Italian media reported that a couple in their 70s was found dead in a scorched home near the city of Palermo.
Temperatures reached 118.4 degrees in Sardinia, Italy’s second-largest island, on Monday, the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe during July.
Heat waves in U.S., Europe ‘virtually impossible’ without climate change, study finds
The hot European weather echoes extreme heat patterns sweeping the Northern Hemisphere, which have been slow to budge in recent weeks. A new study by the World Weather Attribution linked this month’s prolonged heat waves tearing through parts of North America and Europe to climate change, The Washington Post reported.
Ian Livingston contributed to this report.