Near-Record Temps and Deadly Fires Engulf Southern Europe

“Everything is going to burn. Our land, our animals, and our house.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-2-2021

A wildfire in Turkey. Photo: Khaled Bedouin/Twitter

Southern Europe continues to bake and burn under intense heat Monday as scores of fires have forced evacuations and caused mass destruction across Italy, Greece, and Turkey.

“We are facing the worst heat wave since 1987,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Monday, referring to week-long soaring temperatures that year which claimed over 1,000 lives.

Greek authorities issued warnings of “dangerous” heat, and on Monday, inland parts of the country reached as high as 45° C (113 ° F). The worst of the region’s heat is expected to fall Monday and Tuesday, according to AccuWeather meteorologists, with temperatures possibly topping the continental record of 48° C (118.4° F).

“Conditions look to remain very hot for much of the week, and will continue to rival record high temperatures,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Alyssa Smithmyer.

Intense heat in the region has fueled wildfires.

From Agence France-Presse:

Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said that there had been 1,584 fires across Greece in July compared to 953 in 2019, and that there had been 116 new blazes in just the last 24 hours.

“We are no longer talking about climate change but about a climate threat,” he told Star TV.

Wildfires have been sweeping through parts of Turkey as well. Now in their sixth day, they’ve been blamed for at least eight deaths and the hospitalization of over two dozen people.

Muzeyyan Kacar, a 56-year-old resident of the Turkish village of Kacarlar, gave a devastating account to CNN of the devastation.

“The animals are on fire,” she said. “Everything is going to burn. Our land, our animals, and our house. What else do we have anyway?”

Social media users have been sharing dramatic images of the blazes in Turkey and harrowing escapes:

The fires, as Al Jazeera reported Monday, erupted last week.

While the majority have been extinguished, responders were still tacking seven blazes in the coastal provinces of Antalya and Mugla—popular tourist areas, and in Tunceli, southeast Turkey…

The wildfires are the worst of their kind in at least a decade, with nearly 95,000 hectares (235,000 acres) burned so far this year, compared with an average of 13,516 at the same point in the years between 2008 and 2020.

The international conservationist group WWF said the heat and fires in the region must be seen by world leaders as a reason to act urgently on climate:

Italy’s fire service has also been battling hundreds of blazes, responding to over 700 in just the last 24 hours, the country’s fire authority said Monday.

Last week in Sardinia, wildfires scorched tens of thousands of acres and killed hundreds of farm animals.

The situation prompted regional governor Christian Solinas to declare a state of emergency and call it “a disaster without precedent.”

Southeast Europe’s heatwave, however, “is not at all unexpected,” climate scientist Dann Mitchell told the Associated Press, “and very likely enhanced due to human-induced climate change.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
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