Rescue workers are racing against time in Spain and Italy to provide relief to the thousands affected, but the paradox is that while the Spaniards are fighting to put out the fires that have destroyed large areas, their Italian counterparts are struggling to avert a catastrophe due to the floods in the northeastern regions of the country.
And the Spanish authorities announced that Spanish and Portuguese firefighters fighting a fire in the Spanish region of Extremadura (west) are making progress towards containing it, after the fire forced hundreds of people to evacuate a number of villages.
“We hope to deal a big blow today” Saturday to the fire, civil defense coordinator Neves Villar said. “There are many resources on the ground and the work we do is very intensive,” she added, noting that the winds are weak in the region.
“It is a fire that has been better contained,” said Villar – who was speaking from the Benofranciado area, close to the burning forest, but stressed that “we are still far from controlling it.”
The authorities say that the disaster was caused by an arson, and the coordinator explained that firefighters from Portugal joined their Spanish colleagues, and said that there were “more than 600 participants” in the operations to put out the fire.
The disaster extends over an area of about 3,500 hectares of forests and wooded areas, and about 700 people have been evacuated from several villages, according to local authorities.
Data from the European Copernicus satellite showed that about 12,000 hectares were damaged as a result of the fire in various parts of the province of Cáceras.
The Ministry of Agriculture in the regional government indicated that 14 firefighting aircraft participated in putting out the fire.
The year 2022 was bad for Europe, especially in terms of forest fires, and Spain was the most affected on the continent. About 500 fires destroyed more than 300,000 hectares of land, according to the European Forest Fire Information System.
Scientists say that climate change caused by human activity is making extreme weather events – such as heat waves and droughts – more frequent and intense.
Floods and landslides
In a parallel context, more than 36,000 Italians were forced to leave their homes due to floods in the north-east of the country, as rising water levels submerged homes and landslides isolated small villages, regional officials said Saturday.
Heavy rains earlier this week killed 14 people and turned streets in cities and towns in the Emilia-Romagna region into rivers.
With more rains, the regional authorities have extended the state of high alert until next Sunday.
For her part, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said today, Saturday, that she will leave the G7 summit in Japan early to supervise dealing with the emergency situation.
“I cannot stay away from Italy in such a complicated situation,” Meloni told reporters, and thanked the 5,000 rescue workers and volunteers who helped those affected by the floods.
She also thanked the G7 leaders for their offers of assistance.
On Saturday, authorities in the city of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region ordered the immediate evacuation of more small villages at risk.
Meanwhile, a helicopter crashed near the city of Lugo while it was participating in attempts to restore electricity today, Saturday; As a result, one of the four people who were traveling in it was injured, according to the Civil Defense.
In just 36 hours, the amount of rain usually recorded in 6 months fell in the Emilia-Romagna region, and the floods were described as the worst in the country in a century. The floods caused more than 305 landslides, and damaged or closed more than 500 roads in the region.
Bologna Mayor Matteo Libor said on Saturday that repairing roads and infrastructure would take “months, maybe years in some places”.