ROME (Reuters) – Fires ravaged southern Italy on Wednesday, burning thousands of acres of land and killing a man in his home, as temperatures hit records well above 40 degrees Celsius (104°F) and hot winds stoked the flames.
Multiple blazes erupted in Calabria, the toe of Italy’s boot, where a 76-year-old man died after his house collapsed due to the flames, Ansa news agency reported.
“Yet another victim of the fires. We are losing our history, our identity is turning to ashes, our soul is burning,” the mayor of Reggio Calabria, Giuseppe Falcomata, wrote on Facebook.
He urged people to keep away from the affected areas.
Fires are also sweeping through Sicily, destroying trees and threatening property in the southern and central parts of the island, local media reported.
In the town of Floridia, in southern Sicily, the temperature reached 48.8 degrees Celsius in early afternoon, the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe, daily newspaper Corriere della Sera reported, citing the regional meteorological information system.
Firemen said on Twitter they had carried out more than 3,000 operations in Sicily and Calabria in the last 12 hours, employing seven planes to try to douse the flames from above.
“We must immediately respond to this emergency, providing economic relief to those who have lost everything,” said Agriculture Minister Stefano Patuanelli.
Fuelled by the hot weather, fires have erupted across southern Europe in recent weeks, with huge damage to the landscape on the Italian island of Sardinia.
In Greece, many villages on the Peloponnese peninsula were evacuated on Wednesday as exhausted firefighters battled wildfires for a ninth consecutive day.
At the other end of the Mediterranean, fires also tore through forested areas of northern Algeria on Wednesday, killing at least 65 people, state television reported.
(Reporting by Angelo Amante, editing by Gavin Jones and Gareth Jones)