Devastating wildfires sweep parts of Italy, Spain and Greece, thousands flee

Wildfires are sweeping across parts of southern Europe, tearing through the Spanish and Greek countryside and forcing around 1,000 people from their homes on the Italian island of Sardinia.

Sardinia’s local government declared a state of emergency on Sunday, due to what it described as a “disaster without precedence.”

“It is still not possible to estimate the damages caused by the fires that are still ongoing in the Oristano area,” the president of the Sardinia region, Christian Solinas, said in a statement Monday. “Vegetation destroyed, businesses and homes burnt and animals killed,” he added.

On Tuesday regional official Ignazio Artissu said the current estimate of burned area is around 20,000 hectares, but officials are still assessing the damage. Artissu said most of the fires have been put out and they are now focusing on taking the necessary steps so they don’t start again.

Over recent days, the region deployed 7,500 people and over 20 aircraft to fight the fires. Italy has also received support from neighboring countries, with France and Greece deploying four planes to provide assistance in putting out the flames.

Solinas urged Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi to send economic help to the affected areas. Draghi said that his government was monitoring the situation closely and expressed “full solidarity with the population that is working non-stop in the rescue interventions.”

Greece and Spain are also struggling with wildfires due to a continuous heatwave.

In Greece, scores of forest fires burned between Sunday and Monday with more than 700 firefighters being deployed to take control of the situation.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said at a Monday cabinet meeting that firefighters had battled around 50 fires during the last 24 hours across the country, while stressing that more could follow after meteorologists warned the heatwave was likely to continue.

Droughts are becoming more frequent and more severe in southern Europe, and environmental authorities have warned that the region is at the greatest risk from the impacts of climate change on the continent.