Fires spread across Europe

July 24, 2009 12:00 am

, TERUEL, Jul 24 – Deadly summer wild fires spread across Spain, France, Italy and Greece on Friday with holidaymakers rescued from beaches and thousands of fire-fighters brought into the battle.

At least seven people are known to have died in the fires over three days. A Spanish fireman and a shepherd and a farmer on the Italian island of Sardinia were the latest fatalities.

Helicopters and civil protection boats plucked about 120 people to safety from a beach at Capo Pecora in the southwest of Sardinia on Thursday night after they became trapped by flames.

Near Cagliari, the island’s main city, inmates from a prison spent the night on a beach because fire threatened the penitentiary.

Some 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) of forest and brush have been destroyed by six separate fires on Sardinia. Hundreds of fire-fighters backed by Canadair water planes tried to bring them under control Friday.

On Thursday, a 58-year-old shepherd died as he attempted to rescue his flock. A farmer died of a heart attack as he tried to escape the fires.

In Spain five fire-fighters have been killed in three days and about 10,600 hectares land razed by the flames, particularly in Teruel province in the northeast.

The driver of a fire-fighters’ truck was killed in the province on Thursday after his vehicle fell into a ravine as it avoided flames.

Four were killed in Catalonia on Tuesday.

A major new fire broke out at Sierra de Cabrera in Almeria province and 1,500 people were evacuated from their homes. Summer winds have fanned flames during the the hot dry weather, authorities said.

Five French firemen were injured battling three fires that have destroyed about 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres) of forest and bush on the island of Corsica. Ten houses and about 50 cars have been destroyed.

A fire service officer said two fires, including one near the main city of Ajjaccio, were spreading but the third had been brought under control. The regional government said the fires were suspected to have been deliberately started.

Jean-Jacques Panuzzi, head of the Corsican regional council, said seven or eight of the 12 fires reported Thursday were "criminal."

On the French mainland, the French army faced flak after tracer fire used in a military exercise sparked a wildfire on the outskirts of Marseille.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon condemned what he called "a professional mistake," after the blaze tore through 1,300 hectares (3,211 acres) of brush and damaged homes near the Mediterranean city.

Defence Minister Herve Morin called it an "extremely regrettable, deplorable act."

The fire erupted Wednesday after troops from the 1st Foreign Legion Regiment used tracer rounds, which contain an incendiary substance to make them visible in flight.

The blaze was contained by dawn Thursday, but this did little to calm local officials, who noted that it was the second time in as many years the army had started a wildfire.

Local prefect Michel Sappin blasted the "imbecilic" actions of the military.

Several fires broke out in Greece, mainly in the southern Peloponnese and on the island of Evia, destroying forests and farms.

In Turkey, more than 200 fire-fighters battled through the night to control a blaze which started on a dump but spread to a wood in the resort of Bodrum, the Anatolia news agency said.

In Algeria, where temperatures in inland regions have hit 47 degrees Celsius (116 Fahrenheit), authorities have also had to send reinforcements to battle fires.


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