Disasters & Accidents

Fires rage in tourist hotspots in Greece, Turkey, Italy

(Update: adds info on death of pilots whose plane crashed on Euboea)

Athens/Rome/Istanbul, 25 Jul (EFE).- Forest fires in Greece were raging out of control Tuesday with major blazes also reported in tourist hotspots in Italy and Turkey.

GREECE

Greek Aviation’s General Staff confirmed the death of the two officers piloting a tanker plane that crashed Tuesday while putting out a forest fire on the island of Euboea.

The two servicemen, aged 27 and 34, were the pilot and co-pilot of a Canadair tanker plane that crashed near the village of Platanistós, shortly after dropping water on the flames.

A video released by public television ERT shows the plane crashing after it dropped water on the front of the fire, followed seconds later by a large explosion.

According to local authorities, one person — a livestock farmer — has been missing since Sunday. The blaze has forced the evacuation of nine villages and reached the towns of Platanistos and Potami, burning several houses.

Wildfires on the island of Rhodes, which forced the largest evacuation operation in Greece’s history with over 19,000 people — including 7,000 tourists — were still out of control for an eighth consecutive day, the fire department reported.

Some 270 firefighters were battling a blaze that has already scorched over 4,000 hectares of forest and several homes amid adverse weather conditions with high temperatures and strong winds.

Two seaplanes and two helicopter tankers have been deployed and some 20 additional firefighters with 20 vehicles were expected to arrive on the island Tuesday, according to SKAI television reports.

The fire has ripped through the center and southern tip of the island, near the east coast.

Hundreds of volunteers also helped fight the flames throughout the night to prevent them from reaching the town of Malonas and the coastal village of Kalathos.

Hundreds of firefighters were also struggling to control blazes on the islands of Corfu and Evia.

For a third consecutive day, a fire ripped through northwestern Corfu, while on the island of Euboea, northeast of Athens, over 100 firefighters continued to fight another blaze that has been burning for three days.

The fires come amid a record heatwave, as temperatures reached a historic high of 46.4 degrees on Sunday in the Peloponnese town of Gytheio.

According to the National Meteorological Service, the heatwave will continue until Thursday.

ITALY

Fires spread across the island of Sicily, in southern Italy, especially the Palermo area where the flames forced the temporary closure of the airport.

In Palermo province, firefighters were working to contain a blaze in the towns of Alimenusa, Gangi, Blufi, Misilmeri, Cefalu Bolognetta, Santa Flavia, Villabate, Partinico, San Cipirrello and Corleone.

The fires have also affected the Palermo-Mazara del Vallo highway and some exits have been closed.

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