Wildfires raging across Greece for more than a week abate, while Italy counts three more deaths in devastating blaze.
Wildfires have killed at least three elderly people on Italy’s southern island of Sicily as a heatwave and severe storms gripped continental Europe.
The charred bodies of a couple in their 70s were found in their burned-out home on the outskirts of the capital, Palermo, according to Italian media reports.
Another woman in her late 80s died in Palermo province after an ambulance was unable to reach her home due to the fires.
In an overnight message on Facebook, Sicilian President Renato Schifani said “scorching heat and unprecedented devastating fires” had turned Tuesday into “one of the most difficult days in decades”.
Italian firefighters said they battled nearly 1,400 fires between Sunday and Tuesday, including 650 in Sicily and 390 in Calabria.
Fires were still burning on the hills around Palermo on Wednesday, and firefighting planes were deployed to try to douse the flames.
The government was set to meet in Rome on Wednesday evening to declare a state of emergency in regions affected by natural disasters and introduce a special furlough scheme for workers most exposed to the heatwave.
While the country’s south is battling wildfires, the north is dealing with intense storms that killed two people on Tuesday, including a 16-year-old girl scout who was crushed by a falling tree.
In a sign that temperatures were finally easing, only two cities – Catania in Sicily and Bari in southern Puglia – were on a government heatwave “red alert” list for Wednesday, down from 17 the previous day.
Wildfires in Greece
Farther west in the Mediterranean region, wildfires raging across Greece for more than a week diminished on Wednesday although firefighters still battled on several fronts to contain blazes that have killed three people and caused thousands of tourists to evacuate.
On the island of Rhodes, where more than 20,000 foreign visitors and locals fled seaside hotels and homes over the weekend, dozens of firefighters tried to tame blazes close to a mountainous area in the south, more than a week after they had broken out.
“Wildfires across Greece have abated, but firefighters are still operating at different spots,” a fire brigade official told the Reuters news agency on the condition of anonymity.
On Rhodes, “the fire is more intense close to the village of Vati, which is hard to reach, but no settlements are at risk,” another fire brigade official said.
Firefighters were also tackling a fire on the island of Evia, where two pilots were killed on Tuesday when their Canadair CL-215 plane, which was dropping water onto the flames, crashed into a hillside.
The body of a 41-year-old stockbreeder, missing since Sunday, was also found burned in a shack in a remote area.