Wildfires raging in Europe, Canada

Tourists from Denmark stop to photograph one of several wildfires burning near Little Fort,...
Tourists from Denmark stop to photograph one of several wildfires burning near Little Fort, Canada. Photo: Reuters

Deaths have been reported in Croatia and Italy and Australian firefighters are heading north to help Canada as wildfires rage in several countries in the Northern Hemisphere.


Canada was deploying military aircraft and Australia was sending 50 firefighters to battle rapidly spreading wildfires in British Columbia that have forced 39,000 people from their homes, federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on Monday (local time).

Goodale told reporters the western Canadian province had made two requests of the federal government for military assistance to fight the fires, which he said were expected to worsen.

The military has sent two planes and five helicopters to help with evacuations and transportation for first responders, according to the Department of National Defence.

British Columbia chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek said in a conference call the Australians were due to arrive on Wednesday.

There were 159 fires across the province in an area between 150km to 350km northeast of Vancouver, including 17 new ones, although the total numbers were down slightly from 162 on Sunday, Skrepnek said. No casualties have been reported.

"In a few cases, it is because we had amalgamated some of these fires together," he said. "But for the most part, that decrease in terms of the total fires burning is an indication of progress."

Skrepnek said the area burned for the wildfire season was estimated at 188,000 hectares, costing the province C$90 million ($NZ97.5 million) to handle.

British Columbia has announced C$100 million in emergency funds. The Canadian Red Cross will hand out stipends of C$600 for displaced people.

In 2016, fires in Fort McMurray in neighboring Alberta displaced 88,000 people. 

A firefighting plane drops water to extinguish a forest fire near Zadar, Croatia. Photo: Reuters
A firefighting plane drops water to extinguish a forest fire near Zadar, Croatia. Photo: Reuters


Croatian firefighters battled for a full day to control a forest fire along the Adriatic coast that has damaged and destroyed buildings in villages around the city of Split, reaching the Split suburbs late on Monday.

Local media reported that the blaze, which started shortly after midnight, has spread across 20km and first threatened the villages of Srinjine, Sitno Gornje and Sitno Donje. One death has been reported, although it was not clear whether the cause was a heart attack or smoke inhalation.

By the evening hours the blaze had reached eastern suburbs of Split. Some parts of the city were without water or electricity. Visitors were asked to leave two shopping malls as the smoke entered ventilation systems. The fire has also reached the city's waste dumping site.

Authorities prepared places for some 250 people inside a Split sports hall in case there were evacuations.

Citizens were warned not to go near petrol stations threatened by fire on some roads approaching Split.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said that if necessary Croatia might consider asking for help from its European Union partners.

Earlier in the day several houses and around a dozen cars were burnt. A church in one of the villages was saved when firefighters extinguished flames heading towards the building.

Defense Minister Damir Krsticevic said some 100 people from the Croatian army joined firefighters in the village of Zrnovnica, east of Split, where children and elderly people were evacuated from an area engulfed by heavy smoke.

Army personnel were also helping firefighters in Split suburbs.

Zrnovnica is the site of an underground army missile compound, but Krsticevic said he did not expect it to be damaged.

Some 400 firefighters struggled to bring the blaze under control in an area largely covered by pine forest and scrubland. Around 20 smaller fires were burning elsewhere in the southern Croatian region of Dalmatia.


Italian firefighters fought more than 1000 wildfires on Monday amid high temperatures and drought, including three near Rome's beach neighbourhood of Ostia, the fire brigade said.

With half the average rainfall last month and temperatures higher than normal, occasionally touching 40 degrees Celsius in the south, fields and forests have turned into perfect kindling, the national agricultural association Coldiretti said.

"The situation is very serious ... Rome must not be left alone to face this environmental disaster," the city's mayor, Virginia Raggi, said during a tour of an area hit by fire.

Raggi said fires in the capital could have been the work of arsonists and police said they had detained several people on suspicion of setting fires, including one in Rome.

One man died when he fell from the roof of his warehouse, which was threatened by a fire near the southern city of Naples, broadcaster SkyTG 24 reported.

Last week, hundreds of tourists were evacuated by boat in Sicily to escape blazes there, while fires raged on Campania's Mount Vesuvius. The slopes of the volcano near Naples continued to burn on Monday.

Firefighters said they were called to battle 280 fires in Lazio, the region that includes Rome, and 250 in Campania, 150 in Tuscany, 110 in Calabria, and 100 in Apulia. Firefighting aircraft had been asked to intervene 31 times to tackle large blazes on Monday, the Civil Protection agency said.

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