Wildfire prompts evacuations in Tuscany | News | DW | 25.09.2018
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Wildfire prompts evacuations in Tuscany

A massive wildfire has forced the evacuation of hundreds of inhabitants in the Italian region of Tuscany. Authorities say that arson is not being ruled out but are waiting the results of an investigation.

Hundreds of people in the Italian region of Tuscany have had to evacuate their homes due to a huge forest fire.

Chief Pisan firefighter Ugo D'Anna told a local television station that the blaze had consumed around 600 hectares (2.3 square miles). 

Two airborne water-tanker planes and 80 firefighters, assisted by 50 volunteers, were working to extinguish the blaze, which broke out overnight on Monday near Pisa. The fire briefly threatened the towns of Calci, Montemagno and San Lorenzo e la Torre.

About 500 inhabitants were evacuated while olive trees burned in their groves and the sky above the area turned a deep orange.

Firefighters were battling to extinguish the flames on Tuesday, but their efforts were hampered by high winds. The region's four firefighting helicopters were grounded on Tuesday due to the strong winds.

Tuscany's governor, Enrico Rossi, said that the evacuated locals would not be able to return for 24 hours while risk assessments were carried out.

Possible arson

Authorities launched an investigation into the cause of the wildfire. According to local prosecutor Alessandro Crini, investigators had not ruled out arson due to the fact that "the fire began at night and on a relatively cool evening."

The blaze started Monday night on the wooded slopes of Mount Serra and quickly threatened homes in nearby villages. Authorities said hundreds of those who were evacuated spent the night in school gymnasiums and church community centers that doubled as emergency shelters. 

"The firefighters were our angels. It was an apocalyptic scene and thankfully they saved us," one evacuee was quoted as saying by Italian media. "I really hope the blaze was carelessness because I can't bear to think it could have been such an evil act by such a twisted mind."

Wildfires swept across a number of regions across the world this year as temperatures hit record highs. Europe was not spared either as wildfires caused widespread damage not only in Mediterranean countries, but also as far north as Sweden.

av/kms (AFP, DPA, AP)

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