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Wildfires rage in Greece, Spain and Italy as heatwave spreads

wildfire rages in evros region
The wildfire rages in Alexandroupolis

Hospital patients were evacuated onto a ferry in the Greek port city of Alexandroupolis on Tuesday away from a wildfire raging uncontrolled for a fourth day as a new heatwave hit southern Europe.

Authorities urged residents to avoid the heat as France, Italy, Spain and elsewhere suffered hot, dry and windy conditions that scientists have linked to climate change.

Firefighters were also battling blazes in Spain and Italy.

In Alexandroupolis, in northeastern Greece, a ferry was turned into a makeshift hospital after 65 patients, including newborn babies, were evacuated from the University Hospital in the early hours.

Ambulances also ferried patients away from a nearby clinic.

Elderly patients lay on mattresses strewn across the cafeteria floor, paramedics attended to others on stretchers and a woman held a man resting on a sofa, an IV drip attached to his hand.

“I’ve been working for 27 years, I’ve never seen anything like this,” said nurse Nikos Gioktsidis. “Stretchers everywhere, patients here, IV drips there … it was like a war, like a bomb had exploded.”

Several communities in the broader Evros region, near the border with Turkey, have been evacuated as authorities warned the risk of new fires remained high in the next few days.

The burned body of a man believed to be a migrant was found in a rural area near Alexandroupolis on Monday, a local police official said.

“Weather conditions are extreme and will remain extreme for the coming days,” Fire Service spokesman Vassilis Varthakogiannis told ERT TV.

In Spain, where most of the country was in very high or extreme risk of wildfire as a consequence of the summer’s fourth heatwave, authorities were struggling to stabilise a huge wildfire that has been ravaging forests on the island of Tenerife for a week.

WILDFIRES IN SPAIN, ITALY

The blaze has burned through 15,000 hectares in 12 municipalities forcing the evacuation of thousands of people.

Temperatures were likely to reach or exceed 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in large areas of the southwest and northeast of the Iberian peninsula, national weather agency AEMET said.

In Italy, around 700 people have been evacuated after a fire broke out on Monday on the Tuscan island of Elba, in the woods between Rio Marina, firefighter Alessandro Vitaliano told Reuters. No casualties have been reported.

The fire was being contained but was in a hard-to-reach area. A total of 14 hectares have burned so far. Evacuees are expected to return to their homes in the evening, Italian news agency ANSA said. The cause of the fire was not known.

Italy issued hot weather red alerts in 16 of the country’s 27 main cities on Tuesday, including Rome, Milan and Florence, with the number set to rise on Wednesday.

A red alert denotes “emergency conditions”, the health ministry said, advising people not to go out during the hottest part of the day.

In France, four southern regions – the Rhone, Drome, Ardeche and Haute-Loire – were placed under red alert, the most serious warning. This allows authorities to call off events and close public facilities if needed.

Grape-pickers in wine-producing regions of southern France have been advised to start work on the harvest in the early hours of the morning to avoid sweltering in a late summer heatwave.

The high temperatures were affecting large parts of France and were expected to peak at 42C in the Rhone valley over the next 48 hours.

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