Algiers/Athens/Paris/Rome Jul 26 (EFE).- Deadly wildfires have killed over 40 people in countries across the entire Mediterranean area and prompted the evacuation of thousands.
Unprecedented heatwaves this summer in southern Europe and North Africa have sent temperatures soaring, while strong winds that have stoked hundreds of devastating wildfires.
In Algeria, at least 34 people have died in forest fires that have scorched several areas in the northeast of the country.Authorities have arrested 19 people for their alleged involvement in spreading fires that have been raging since Sunday.
The Algerian Prosecutor’s Office said that the detainees could be referred to the anti-terrorism and organized crime department in the capital if the charges against them are verified.
Civil Protection services announced Wednesday that 80% of wildfires had been extinguished after a massive operation.
Following last week’s extreme weather, when 50C was recorded in the shade, a drop in temperatures and weaker winds were reported on Wednesday.
Authorities said 13 fires were still active in seven northern and eastern provinces, down from the 97 that were reported from Sunday.
Major forest fires were reported on three Greek islands Wednesday with thousands of firefighters and volunteers working to tame the flames.
A state of emergency was declared on the Greek island of Rhodes Wednesday as some 270 firefighters working with 55 vehicles, 4 helicopters and 3 tanker planes worked to put out fires that have been raging for nine days straight and have ravaged over 14,000 hectares of land.
According to public broadcaster ERT, some 3,000 volunteers are helping to contain the fires that remain out of control and are threatening populated areas over much of the center and the southern tip of the island.
Some 19,000 people, including 7,000 tourists, were moved to safety over the weekend in what was Greece’s largest evacuation operation in history.
“Today will also be a difficult day,” the spokesman for the Fire Department, Yannis Artopiós, told SKAI television Wednesday, as firefighters braced themselves for stronger winds.
On the island of Euboea, northeast of Athens, two pilots died when a tanker plane crashed on Tuesday.
The situation has since improved somewhat as firefighters battle small scattered blazes, but the wind could pick up again, meteorological experts warned.
In Corfu, another large forest fire continues to rage out of control for a fourth consecutive day.
The flames spread towards the north coast of the island on Tuesday, forcing the authorities to evacuate at least four coastal towns, while several houses burned in the town of Lutses.
Some 500 wildfires were reported in Greece from July 13, a daily average of up to 70 fires.
In the last seven days, at least 34,000 hectares of forest and agricultural land have been scorched, the Kathimerini daily reported.