Wildfires rage through Italy's Sardinia, forcing evacuations

Published : July 26, 2021 17:55 IST

Firefighters in Sardinia struggled throughout the night to put out the fire. Photo: Alessandro Tocco/LaPresse/AP Photo/picture alliance

Tens of thousands of acres have gone up in flames in what Italian officials called "an unprecedented disaster." Spain and France were also battling wildfires.

Wildfires raged through the Italian island of Sardinia on July 25, forcing emergency services to evacuate almost hundreds of people from their homes overnight. Several aircraft have been deployed to put out what the Nuova Sardegna newspaper called an "enormous fire" that has been destroying fields on the island since July 24.

What we know about the fires

Firefighters have battled to put out the blaze fanned by southwesterly winds and which, according to authorities, has already ravaged 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) around the historic central-western area of Montiferru. The island's Governor, Christian Solinas, said around 50,000 acres of vegetation had gone up in flames, destroying several houses and killing animals.

Nearly 1,500 people were evacuated across Sardinia, broadcaster Rai News reported on July 25. There were no reports of anyone being killed or injured by the fire. Officials said some 7,500 emergency workers, including members of Italy's forest police and the Red Cross, were helping evacuees and those at risk.

Emergency services managed to stave off enough of the threat on July 25, allowing some evacuees from the town Cuglieri to return home. However, the threat is still classified as "extreme." With temperatures expected to remain high on July 26 , authorities are warning residents to remain on alert until the fire is fully under control.

'An unprecedented disaster'

Villaurbana's Mayor, Paolo Pireddu, who is coordinating the response in his area, told ANSA his town had been "touched by the flames, which are now heading towards Mount Grighine." "We have put the population on alert with the possibility of evacuating, should there be a need."

"It is not yet possible to estimate the damage caused by the fires still raging in the Oristanese area, but it is an unprecedented disaster," Solinas told the Nuova Sardegna newspaper. "We are asking the government for immediate economic support to restore the damage and help affected communities get back on their feet."

France and Greece show 'prompt solidarity'

Two firefighting planes from France and two from Greece arrived in Italy to assist in containing the fires, Italy's civil protection agency said. Italy's foreign minister, Luigi Di Maio, said on Facebook that the agency appealed for aircraft from other European countries.

Janez Lenarcic, the EU's crisis management commissioner, thanked France and Greece for their "prompt solidarity." Lenarcic said that the bloc's Emergency Response Coordination Center "remains in close contact with the Italian authorities to monitor developments on the ground and coordinate any further assistance as needed."

Wildfires burn in Spain and France

Wildfires broke out in northeast Spain on the evening of July 24, consuming more than 3,000 acres of woodland in the rural area 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of Barcelona. Catalan authorities evacuated 28 children and 14 camp counselors from a nearby summer camp.

Around 300 emergency responders, including firefighters and members of the military emergency unit, battled on Sunday to prevent the blaze from moving into inhabited areas.  Meanwhile, a large fire broke out on July 24 in southern France. More than 1,000 firefighters and emergency responders were deployed, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.

Darmanin said a firefighting aircraft was also sent to a fire in a forested area between the cities of Narbonne and Carcassonne. The fire has burned an area of around 2,100 acres. It has affected more than 100,000 households, according to France's electricity operator RTE.

fb, jc/mm (AP, AFP)

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor