Where Wildfires Are Raging in Europe and Africa: Greece, Algeria and More

Hundreds of wildfires have burned their way through Southern Europe and North Africa this week, with residents of nearby communities forced to flee the billowing smoke and advancing blazes. Firefighters in at least 10 countries in the region have mobilized firefighting planes and trucks to douse the blazes, which have blackened thousands of acres of land, consumed buildings and killed dozens of people.

With the summer season typically a popular time for tourists, visitors to the region have also been caught up in the crisis as evacuations were ordered from some coastal resorts, seaside villages and islands. Some roads have also been closed and flights suspended.

Stoking the flames is a recent heat wave that has seared the land and sent temperatures to sweltering highs — creating prime conditions for the blazes to take hold and spread.

  • In Algeria, wildfires east of the capital, Algiers, this week killed dozens of people and prompted the evacuation of more than 1,500 households; the fires also spread to neighboring Tunisia.

  • In Croatia, firefighters were still supervising a blaze on Friday that had broken out near the city of Dubrovnik and burned about 1,000 acres, the fire brigade said.

  • In France, blazes burned on the island of Corsica and led to road closures near the southern city of Nice.

  • In Greece, hundreds of firefighters have pushed to contain blazes on the mainland and on the islands of Corfu, Evia and Rhodes. At least four people have died, including two pilots whose plane crashed in firefighting operation in Evia, and two others after new blazes broke out in western Greece. The new blazes spread to a military barracks on Thursday, causing explosions at an ammunitions warehouse, the government said. Scattered fires on the island of Rhodes, which have spurred the evacuation of nearly 20,000 people — the largest in recent Greek history, officials say — were still burning on Thursday.

  • In Italy, which bore the brunt of the recent heat wave, firefighters in the south of the country said they had responded to more than 1,300 incidents since Sunday, and officials in Sicily said that three people on the island had died in “devastating” blazes this week.

  • In Portugal, firefighters said they had contained a blaze on Wednesday at a national park in Cascais, a coastal municipality close to Lisbon.

  • In Spain, firefighters contained a wildfire overnight on Wednesday on the island of Gran Canaria, where about 1,000 acres burned and the region’s civil guard evacuated some residents. A wildfire last week on La Palma, another of the Canary Islands, had burned at least 11,000 acres.

  • In Syria, fires have raged in the country’s west in a rural part of the Latakia area.

  • In Turkey, dozens of aircraft and hundreds of firefighters have been responding to blazes in the Antalya region along the Mediterranean coast.

No, at least in the European Union. Countries there have seen far more fires and a larger burned area this year than in an average fire season, with a sharp rise during the recent heat wave.

Countries in the region have shared firefighting resources. The European Union sent more than 490 firefighters and nine firefighting planes to Greece and Tunisia, and countries like Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania and Serbia have also contributed resources. Two additional fighting aircraft from France were being deployed to Greece on Thursday, said Janez Lenarcic, the bloc’s commissioner for crisis management.

In Spain, firefighters on Gran Canaria are pre-emptively burning some pine forests to help prevent fires from spreading.

The blazes in the region have led to large-scale evacuations — notably on the island of Rhodes, where a declared state of emergency left crowds of tourists stranded in temporary evacuation centers.

Officials had warned during the heat wave that the risk of fires in several places was high. Although it is difficult to link any individual event to climate change, experts say that heat waves in Europe are increasing in frequency and intensity. That extreme weather, firefighters fear, is driving circumstances that will make extinguishing blazes in the future more difficult and dangerous.

Niki Kitsantonis contributed reporting from Greece.

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