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Southern Europe's fires: Who is affected?

August 5, 2021

Greece saved Olympia "for now" and Turkey put out a blaze near a power plant, but Italy is still struggling to contain the wildfires spreading in Sicily. Follow DW for the latest.

Waldbrände in Griechenland
Image: Michael Pappas/AP Photo/picture alliance

Forest fires fueled by a protracted heat wave continued to rage on Thursday from Italy to Turkey and through the Balkans.

The European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service said July was the second-hottest on record in Europe. The heat wave has continued through August to ignite wildfires. 

Major fires broke out in Greece and Turkey amidst the worst heatwave in years.  

Neighboring countries are also facing similar crises. An EU disaster response group said firefighters and water-dropping planes were being sent from the bloc's members to Italy, Greece, Albania and North Macedonia, where the government declared a 30-day state of emergency. 

Karte Waldbränder Süd- und Osteuropa EN

Here's a breakdown of the latest developments on the wildfires in southern Europe.

Greece: Olympia monuments are 'safe for now' 

For more than a week, Greece has battled a heatwave that authorities describe as the country’s worse since 1987, with temperatures spiraling to 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit). The heat wave is forecast to last until at least Sunday. 

From Tuesday to late Wednesday, Greece saw more than 100 wildfires break out. Footage shared on Twitter showed the smoke rising seen from Athens. 

Major fires threatened the monuments at Olympia, a key site of the antiquity in the country's west. 

Nektarios Farmakis, the regional governor, told state television on Thursday that the site "has been saved for the time being," however, he warned that "the danger is not over." 

In 2007, the same area was ravaged by fires, killing dozens of people. 

Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos said Thursday that the military would expand its role in fire prevention, with ground and air patrols over areas vulnerable to wildfires.

DW's Florian Schmitz in Greece reported, "The firefighters don't seem to be able to control the flames."


Turkey contains fire at a power plant

Hundreds of villagers were forced to flee in boats and cars in Turkey's southwest as the fire burned near a coal-fueled power plant compound. 

Some 11 hours later, the blaze was contained, local authorities said on Thursday. 

But other fires continued to burn amid scorching heat, low humidity and constantly shifting strong winds. Turkey's worst wildfires in decades have raged for nine days. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office said an initial inspection showed the overnight blazes left "no serious damage to the main units in the plant."

At least eight people and countless animals have been killed so far.


DW's Julia Hahn reported, "People are saying authorities here in Turkey reacted too late."

The unfolding disaster has triggered a backlash against authorities over their response.

"When fires break out in America or Russia, [the opposition] stands by the government, We don't have this," Erdogan said in a television interview on Wednesday. 

Turkish prosecutors on Thursday launched a probe into social media posts about the disaster that were "trying to create anxiety, fear and panic in the public, and to humiliate the Turkish government."

Italy: Natural heritage sites burn in Sicily 

Forest fires on the Italian island of Sicily have now spread into three provinces, uniting two protected forest parks, Madonie and Nebrodi, Italian news agency ANSA reported on Thursday.

A photo shared on Twitter showed the fires lighting up the night sky near the town of Castel di Lucio.

The fire spread despite the best efforts of firefighters and Canadair. Authorities evacuated several homes. They warned that the thick blanket of smoke has made further air support more difficult. 

ab, fb/rs (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters, Interfax)