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Firefighter tackling a blaze in Greece earlier this week. Alamy Stock Photo
extreme heat

'Unbearable': Heatwaves and wildfires continue to claim lives across southern Europe

Eleven people were killed by a wildfire in Turkey overnight.

EUROPEAN COUNTRIES ARE being plagued by heatwaves and wildfires once again this summer, with temperatures in Mediterranean countries hitting 40C and above this week.

Eleven people were killed by a massive wildfire in Turkey last night while fires have also led to the evacuation of several villages in Greece, which is experiencing its earliest ever heatwave that has claimed the lives of several tourists.

Cyprus and Italy are also suffering extreme temperatures, with the Italian health ministry issuing red alerts for Rome and Palermo among other cities. 

Scientists have warned that heatwaves and wildfires are becoming more common and lasting longer as a result of climate change. 


The deadly wildfire in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast occurred overnight, the country’s health minister said.

Hundreds of animals also perished or were badly injured in the blaze that roared across the dry landscape, sending flames into the night sky.

By morning the fire had left huge areas of charred and blackened land across the Diyarbakir and Mardin provinces.

“Eleven people lost their lives,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca wrote on X, adding that another 78 people suffered injuries and smoke inhalation.

Of that number, five people were being treated in intensive care, he said.

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish DEM party, which won many municipalities in the southeast in the March local elections, criticised the government’s intervention as “late and insufficient”.

During the night, DEM had urged the government to send water bomber planes, saying fighting the blaze from the ground was “not enough”.

An AFP reporter in Koksalan village in Diyarbakir province saw around 100 animals lying dead on the ground.

Residents told the news agency around half their flock of about 1,000 sheep and goats had been killed by the fire.

Seracettin Bedirhanoglu, a member of the opposition CHP party and leader of the eastern Van province, described the images as “unbearable”, urging vets to go to the area to help treat the wounded animals.

Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said on X the public prosecutor’s office had opened a probe into the cause of the fire.

Turkey has suffered 74 wildfires so far this year, which have devastated 12,910 hectares of land, according to the European Forest Fire Information System.


Firefighters have been battling wildfires on the Peloponnese peninsula in Greece for the third day in a row and several villages have had to be evacuated. 

At least four major blazes were recorded in the southern peninsula in an area between 150 to 250 kilometres southwest of Athens.

The fires claimed their first victim today when a 55-year-old man collapsed and died while helping to fight one of the blazes.

Dozens of firefighters were battling to contain a fire near a power station outside the town of Magapoli, supported by 12 vehicles, six water-bomber planes and two helicopters, according to the Greek news agency ANA.

“The conditions are extremely challenging,” fire department spokesman Vassilis Vathrakogiannis told reporters.

“The wind speeds have exceeded 95 kilometres per hour in some regions,” Vathrakogiannis said, adding that this was making life difficult for planes dropping water on the fires.

In all, he said “45 fire outbreaks have been recorded across the country,” the spokesman said.

The fire service had quickly contained a blaze that erupted near the seaside resort of Mavro Lithari close to the capital, he said, while urging civilians to take precautions.

Since Wednesday, Greek authorities have warned of a very high wildfire risk due to strong winds and high temperatures.

Two villages and three private schools were evacuated near Koropi on Wednesday due to a fire that broke out 30 kilometres southeast of Athens.

Accustomed to searing summer heat, Greece has been preparing for a particularly difficult wildfire season for weeks.

In 2023, Greece experienced an unprecedented two-week heatwave followed by devastating wildfires.

The flames consumed nearly 175,000 hectares of forest and farmland, according to the National Observatory of Athens.


In Rome, where the air force recorded a peak of 39C on Thursday afternoon, the city hall has installed potted palm trees at bus stops to provide some shade.

While the capital has many parks and is dotted with drinking water fountains in addition to the decorative ones, there are also many streets and piazzas with little to no cover from the sun.

The occasional palm was not enough to offset the sauna-like heat and during lunchtimes this week, many have spurned outside tables for the cool of air-conditioned restaurants.

“We’ll go back to the hotel for a while to avoid the hottest hours,” Anna Verna, an Italian tourist to Rome, told AFP while visiting an area near the famous Spanish Steps.

“Then we’ll go out again… Rome is beautiful, so we want to enjoy it even in the heat.”

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace took a thermal camera onto the streets of Rome and found temperatures above 50C at certain spots, including the Colosseum.

Last year, Rome recorded a record peak temperature of 42.9C on 18 July, according to city hall.

“A record, unfortunately, that we risk breaking this summer,” said Sabrina Alfonsi, lead councillor for the environment.

“Summer has already exploded, even though it is still June.”

With reporting from AFP

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