Firefighters battle blazes in Italy

Rome, Aug 17 (IANS): Italian firefighters have been battling major blazes in the north of the country and on the island of Sicily, officials said.

Several units were called to a forest fire which broke out in a hiking area west of the Adriatic coastal city of Rimini, dpa news agency quoted the fire brigade as saying on Tuesday.

The emergency services brought 10 people from the affected area to safety.

A video showed thick smoke hanging over the hilly area and strong winds fanned the blaze, the fire brigade added.

On the popular holiday island of Sicily, firefighters on Tuesday were fighting a wildfire that broke in the coastal community of Trabia, east of Palermo, overnight.

According to Italian media reports, the flames also endangered several residential buildings. People were brought to safety because of the danger of gas cylinders in the buildings exploding.

The fire brigade was also fighting the flames from the air.

Dry conditions brought on by drought and negligent behaviour or arson are thought to be the main causes behind the blazes.

Experts suspect the consequences of climate change are behind the drought in Italy this year.

According to data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), as of August 13, around 42,000 hectares have burnt in Italy so far this year, more than the average at this time in the previous 15 years.

In this calculation, EFFIS only considers areas affected by fire that are 30 hectares or larger.



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