Italy battles more than 500 wildfires across the country

Italian emergency services battled more than 500 fires across the country overnight, officials said Thursday, while the death toll from the fires rose to four amid a heat wave across Europe.

Italy recorded a record high temperature of 48.8 degrees Celsius on Wednesday, and firefighters battled hundreds of raging wildfires for days in the south of the country, including in Calabria and Sicily.

Emergency services were dispatched to fight more than 500 fires as Italy and its European neighbors struggle with extremely dry summer weather that experts warn will worsen due to the effects of climate change.

Two more fatalities were confirmed Wednesday, a 79-year-old man and a 77-year-old man in Reggio di Calabria, who is believed to have been trying to protect his cattle. A 53-year-old woman and her 35-year-old nephew died last week in the same region while trying to protect their family’s olive grove from the flames.

The fire department confirmed the extent of the fires Thursday, reporting 528 outbreaks, including 230 in Sicily alone, where authorities have declared a state of emergency and sent volunteer fire crews from across Italy to help control the situation.

The wildfires in Italy follow similar fires in other European countries, including Greece and Turkey, which are suffering from similarly hot summers. Last week, firefighters across Turkey recorded more than 150 fires that spread quickly through the forests due to the intense heat and strong winds, and the EU and Russia provided support to put out the fires. In Greece, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis confirmed Wednesday that the fires are “gradually getting out of control” after some parts of the country evacuated people near populated areas.

Elsewhere, Algeria announced an official investigation to identify those believed to be behind an outbreak of 50 fires that destroyed forests and homes – again due to the country’s high temperatures. The fires have killed at least 65 people.

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