Brutal heatwave scorches southern Europe as continent's summer of extreme weather rages on

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CNN 04 August, 2021 - 07:38am 93 views

Is Turkey on Fire 2021?

Forest Fires in Turkey Forest fires have been active in the Southern coast of Turkey since 28 July 2021. The death toll from the fires is officially reported as eight people killed in a total of 156 wildfires that have erupted in the last week. ReliefWebTurkey forest fires situation report: Manavgat (03 August 2021) - Turkey

Greece experienced its hottest day on record this week, and wildfires raged across the region, leaving much of Southern Europe struggling to cope.

ATHENS — Greece was grappling with one of its hottest weeks on record on Tuesday as an intense heat wave swept through much of Southern Europe and fueled major forest fires.

The National Observatory of Athens weather service on Monday registered the highest temperature ever officially recorded in the country — 46.3 degrees Celsius, or 115.3 degrees Fahrenheit — in the central Greek region of Phthiotis.

Temperatures were forecast to climb to 113 degrees Fahrenheit in Athens on Tuesday and top 115 degrees in parts of central Greece, according to the country’s National Meteorological Service.

“We are facing the worst heat wave since 1987,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Monday, noting that the authorities were doing “everything humanly possible” to secure an adequate electricity supply. He appealed to people to limit their use of electricity in the early afternoon and at night to ensure that the grid holds up.

While scientists have yet to draw a firm connection between this barrage of stifling temperatures and global warming, it fits an overall trend. Heat waves around the world are occurring more often and with higher intensity as the climate changes because of greenhouse gas emissions.

Research has shown that for major heat waves across Europe in recent summers, climate change has been a significant worsening factor.

Greece’s meteorological service said the current heat wave was one of the worst of the past 40 years. It is forecast to end on Friday, after 11 days.

More than 1,000 people died in a 10-day heat wave that gripped Greece in 1987 and saw temperatures climb to more than 111 degrees Fahrenheit in Athens, the capital. The highest temperature on record for Athens was 112.6 degrees Fahrenheit, recorded in 2007, according to the observatory, which has records stretching back more than 160 years.

This week, officials appealed to vulnerable members of the public, particularly older people and pregnant women, to avoid leaving their homes. The government also opened cooling centers for homeless people.

The Culture Ministry said that all archaeological sites would remain closed from noon to 5 p.m. through Friday. Museums remained open, however, and footage of long lines of people waiting outside the capital’s Acropolis museum was aired on Greek television.

There were similar lines at the port of Piraeus, where passengers awaited ferries for the islands, pulling down their face masks to drink from water bottles or use hand-held fans.

Athens’ central Syntagma Square, typically buzzing with crowds, was relatively quiet on Tuesday as tourists huddled under the shade of trees or dipped their hands into the water fountain to cool off.

The heat wave and an accompanying drought have fueled several wildfires in Greece and other parts of Southern Europe, including Croatia, Italy and Turkey.

Greek firefighters were on Tuesday battling a new forest fire that broke out in the early afternoon at the foot of Mount Parnitha, north of Athens, prompting hundreds of people to flee their homes. A village and children’s camp were evacuated and a section of the nearby highway was closed to traffic.

The worst blazes this week were in Turkey, where firefighters were battling a sixth day of wildfires along the country’s southern coast that forced tens of thousands from their homes. The fires were encroaching on residential areas and threatened a power plant.

At least eight people have died, and homes and vast tracts of forestland have been destroyed. Strong winds and a dry atmosphere have allowed the fires to rapidly expand.

“I’m struggling to breathe, the weather is that hot,” Gulcin Hacievliyagil Ayce, a Turkish television reporter, told Haber Turk TV on Tuesday while reporting in the city of Marmaris.

In a video posted to the Twitter account of the city’s mayor, Mehmet Oktay, he stood in front of a hillside of charred trees and pleaded for more aerial firefighting support. “Although we have been demanding more air support since the beginning, today there is only one helicopter, no planes,” he said.

Flames and plumes of billowing gray smoke rose behind white villas in the town of Milas in television footage on Tuesday, and officials warned of the risk that the flames could reach a nearby power plant. “We are at a critical point,” Muhammet Tokat, the town’s mayor, said in a post on Twitter overnight.

The fires in Turkey led to the evacuation of thousands from seaside resorts and villages, and the European Union sent water-dropping aircraft to assist in the firefighting effort.

Turkey’s central government has been widely denounced over its response to the disaster, including hiring planes from Russia. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that the country’s own planes are not capable of stopping the blazes.

Sukru Durmus, the head of the agriculture and forest workers’ union, said that the extreme weather conditions had laid the ground for the wildfires, but that misconduct by Turkey’s government and a lack of precautionary measures had worsened the situation.

In Greece, the largest fires were in the southern Peloponnese peninsula and on the island of Rhodes in the southern Aegean Sea, opposite the Turkish coast. On Monday, the authorities declared a state of emergency in parts of Rhodes after a fire that broke out on Sunday destroyed hundreds of acres of forestland and prompted the evacuation of villages, a military base and a popular nature reserve.

Greece’s fire service said that dozens of fires were being reported daily, and officials noted that there had been 1,584 in July, compared with 953 in July 2019.

“We are no longer talking about climate change, but a climate threat,” Nikos Hardalias, the country’s Deputy Civil Protection Minister, told Greek television on Sunday.

Read full article at CNN

In heat emergency, southern Europe scrambles for resources

New York Post 04 August, 2021 - 03:00pm

Temperatures reached 45 C (113 F) in inland areas of Greece and nearby countries and are expected to remain high for most of the week.

Battling deadly wildfires along its coastline for a sixth day, Turkey broadened an appeal for international assistance and was promised water-dropping planes from the European Union. The fires have been blamed for the deaths of eight people in recent days.

The help for residents in Turkey's fire-ravaged areas couldn't come soon enough. At the coastal village of Bozalan, resident Esra Sanli looked over at the blaze.

“It’s burning. It’s obviously burning. There’s no plane, there’s no helicopter, there are no (access) roads,” she said, sobbing. “How is this going to be extinguished? How?”

In Greece, an emergency was declared in fire-hit areas on the island of Rhodes, which is near the Turkish coast. Workers with health conditions were allowed to take time off work, while Greek coal-fired power stations slated for retirement were brought back into service to shore up the national grid, under pressure due to the widespread use of air conditioning.

Pregnant and other vulnerable workers in North Macedonia were told to stay home.

Dann Mitchell, a professor of climate science at the University of Bristol, said the heat wave in southeast Europe “is not at all unexpected, and very likely enhanced due to human-induced climate change.”

"The number of extreme heat events around the world is increasing year on year, with the top 10 hottest years on record all occurring since 2005,” Mitchell told The Associated Press.

“This year, we have seen a number of significant events, including a particularly dramatic heat wave in western Canada and the U.S., that was extreme even for current levels of climate change," Mitchell said. "These black swan events have always happened, but now they sit on the background of a hotter climate, so are even more deadly.”

As hot weather edged southward, Italy and Croatia were experiencing storms as well as wildfires. A small tornado in Istria, on Croatia’s northern Adriatic coast, toppled trees that destroyed several cars, hours before a large wildfire erupted outside the nearby resort of Trogir, threatening homes and the local power supply.

Some 30 people were treated for light smoke inhalation in Italy’s coastal city of Pescara after flames tore through a nearby pine forest. Beach-goers nearby had to be rescued by sea Sunday from that wildfire.

Cyprus, recovering from a major wildfire last month, kept water-dropping planes on patrol to respond to fires as they broke out.

“If you don’t react right away with a massive response to any outbreak, things can turn difficult quickly,” forestry service chief Charalambos Alexandrou told state-run media. “The conditions are war-like.”

On a visit to the power grid operator Monday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis urged members of the public to avoid daytime use of ovens, washing machines and other energy-demanding appliances to reduce the risk of blackouts. He described the weather conditions in Greece as the most severe since a deadly heat wave in 1987.

It was the year that Ioanna Vergou, deputy mayor of the northern Greek town of Skydra, was born. The town of 5,500 briefly ranked among the hottest in the country. She said municipal workers had been given earlier shifts and those needing public services were handed water and sent to an air-conditioned waiting area.

“Many people here have compared the heat wave to what happened in 1987,” she said. “But hopefully it will be easier this time round. We are all just waiting for it to pass.”

___ Mehmet Guzel reported from Cokertme, Turkey and Colleen Barry reported from Milan, Italy. Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, Ayse Wieting in Istanbul, Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia, Menelaos Hadjicostis in Nicosia, Cyprus, and Konstantin Testorides in Skopje, North Macedonia also contributed. ___

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Firefighters in Turkey battle wildfires as flames race across hills

Global News 04 August, 2021 - 03:00pm

Italy is fighting wildfires in Sicily and Greece is battling fires in the west of the country, but neither country is facing the conflagrations that have swept along Turkey's southern coast since last Wednesday. At least eight people have died in Turkey due to the wildfires, including two in the town of Manavgat on Sunday, according to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca. Five other people in Manavgat and one person in Marmaris have also died in recent days. 

Authorities say more than 100 fires have erupted in Turkey in the past six days and most of them have been contained. Russia, Ukraine, Iran, and Azerbaijan have deployed teams to help Turkish firefighters and volunteers battle the blazes, and the European Union said Sunday it has helped mobilize three fire-fighting planes to fight the fires on Turkey's coast. The wildfires prompted boat evacuations in the popular resort town of Bodrum on Sunday in conditions Mayor Ahmet Aras described as "hell." 

Bodrum and other vacation areas on Turkey's southwestern coast were struggling with a sharp drop in tourism from the COVID-19 pandemic before the fires broke out last week. "We closed the last tourism season down 75 percent," Aras had said in late June. "We expect a recovery from July with the start of flights from Russia and Europe." Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in June that, "God willing, we will jump-start tourism and have a tourist push." Tourism did jump dramatically in July, but so did COVID-19 cases.

The damage from the wildfires and spread of the Delta variant are expected to hit Turkey's tourism sector just as it was rebounding, but the damage extends much further. "The animals are on fire," Muzeyyan Kacar, a 56-year-old farmer in the village of Kacarlar, told CNN. "Everything is going to burn. Our land, our animals, and our house."

The southern coast of the northern Mediterranean has been unseasonably hot and dry, leaving the region susceptible to fires. But in Turkey at least, investigators are trying to determine if some of the raging fires were the result of arson.

Turkey united: Aid, support pour in amid wildfires 

Daily Sabah 04 August, 2021 - 08:23am

The catastrophic wildfires that have devastated Antalya and Muğla in Turkey’s south have also ignited a spirit of solidarity throughout the nation. Everyone, from celebrities to people from neighboring towns, has joined efforts to extinguish fires that have been burning for a week. Some carry water in bottles, others donate everything they can afford that is needed to combat the fires, from masks to batteries for radios used for communication by firefighters.

When local forces were overwhelmed with sporadic wildfires, Turkey rushed to their aid. From every province of the country, fire trucks, firefighters, search and rescue crews and forestry workers descended on Antalya and Muğla where the worst fires out of dozens raged on. Civilians of all ages also joined the efforts to sustain the energy of firefighters and volunteers, bringing bottles of cold water to the “flame warriors,” as they are dubbed on social media. Charities set up coordination centers in two provinces to organize aid efforts and set up meal distribution points for people who lost their homes in the fires. Police and gendarmerie troops are also at the forefront of efforts to contain fires and prevent new ones.

The government funneled $2.7 million (TL 23.5 million) to the disaster-hit areas to help survivors and pledged more in the coming days. The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) allocated $592,000 for the reforestation of burned places. A bank account set up by Antalya Governorate also sees cash aid pouring in for areas affected by the fires.

Charities deliver food and other aid to disaster zones while some charities are mobilized to rescue and treat animals affected by the fires.

Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) set up tents and prefabricated units in fire-hit areas in Antalya, Muğla, Mersin, Adana and Osmaniye to accommodate people left homeless by fires while delivering three meals a day to thousands in disaster areas. The Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay) has delivered meals for more than 65,000 people daily since last week. The charity’s president Kerem Kınık told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Wednesday that they also had more than 3,300 people on the ground who delivered aid, from food to hygiene kits, to some 300,000 people.

Ali Samet Özkurt, deputy director of a charity based in the northwestern province of Sakarya, said they arrived in Manavgat with 200 volunteers, who worked in humanitarian aid and assisting firefighting efforts. “We have volunteers from all around Turkey, from doctors to divers, people from all walks of life. We are specialized in aid in big fires,” he said.

Fadıl Akgün arrived from Adıyaman province, along with a group of professional firefighters, three days ago and is working day and night to help. “It does not matter wherever the fire is. We do everything to protect our forests,” he said. Hasan Gündüz, from the fire department of the western province of Uşak, has been working in Marmaris for the past four days. “I worked in all recent earthquakes and big fires, all across Turkey. Now I am here. Everyone from all around the country is here. We have one heart beating for this country and everybody helps us to put out the fires. I want our nation not to worry about the situation here. We will overcome this,” he said.

Emin Yıldız, another firefighter from Balıkesir, said all the firefighters sent to disaster areas across the country worked “as one.” “For instance, we receive water from fire truck of Uşak fire department and we supply water to police’s riot control vehicles fitted with water cannons to put out the fires,” he said. Yıldız described Turkey as “a strong nation,” underlining how immensely helpful the people are. “Firefighters working here have no need because we have everything we need thanks to people helping us,” he said.

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Brutal heatwave scorches southern Europe as summer of extreme weather rages on

Daily Sabah 04 August, 2021 - 07:38am

Greece is facing one of its worst heatwaves in decades and the country remains on high alert as it continues to battle blazes across the country.

Heat warnings have also been issued for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Italy, Romania, Serbia and Turkey. Deadly wildfires have swept across parts of Turkey in recent days and forced the evacuation of tourist resorts.

Residents of the Greek capital, Athens, have been warned to stay indoors with their windows closed because of poor air quality after a wildfire raged Tuesday in the suburbs north of the capital. The extreme heat forced the Ministry of Culture to close the Acropolis and other ancient sites from noon to 5 p.m. local this week.

The Greek Fire Service said Wednesday it had been called to intervene in 78 forest fires in the past 24 hours. A fire on the large island of Evia, northeast of Athens, was burning strongly on Wednesday.

Wildfires also continued to burn Tuesday in parts of Turkey, fueled by the extreme heat. At least eight people had died as a result of the fires in Mugla and Antalya provinces as of Tuesday, Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The region's heatwave comes on the heels of devastating wildfires last week in Spain, Greece and the Italian island of Sardinia and less than a month after catastrophic flooding in northern Europe claimed more than 200 lives.

Experts say freak weather events like the floods in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as the recent heatwave and wildfires across Canada and the US, are a sign of the impacts of climate change.

Droughts are becoming more frequent and more severe in southern Europe, and environmental authorities have warned that the region is at the greatest risk from the impacts of climate change on the continent.

CNN forecasters said the region's current heatwave would last until at least Friday, with the peak of heat coming Tuesday and Wednesday for Greece. Temperatures were expected to again be up to 10 degrees above average Wednesday, at over 40 degrees Celsius, in Greece and western Turkey.

The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), an EU program, said Wednesday that the Mediterranean region was evolving into a "wildfire hotspot" and warned that the fires already burning were emitting large amounts of smoke pollution into the atmosphere.

"In Turkey and southern Italy, CAMS data shows the emissions and intensity of wildfires are rapidly increasing, and countries like Morocco, Albania, Greece, North Macedonia and Lebanon are also affected," it said in a news release.

"Smoke plumes from the fires are clearly visible in satellite imagery crossing the Eastern Mediterranean Basin from southern Turkey."

In Greece, more than 200 locations topped 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) on Tuesday. The top temperature of 47.1C (117 F), registered in Langadas in Thessaloniki, was less than one degree from the all-time European record of 48.0C recorded in Athens, Greece, in 1977.

Greece's weather service warned that the risk of fire remained very high Wednesday and Thursday. "The prolonged heat conditions prevailing in our country have increased the flammability of dead fuel to extremely high levels in almost the entire territory, making any use of fire extremely dangerous," it said.

The fire on the outskirts of Athens is mostly under control but fears remain that it could surge up again, according to the authorities.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Wednesday that there had been no loss of life and that the emergency evacuation system had worked. He stressed that the next days would be crucial because of the heatwave and that everyone should remain on alert.

Several residential areas have been evacuated, according to the Greek Fire Service.

As the fire spread Tuesday north of the capital, authorities urged residents to leave the Athens suburbs of Varimpompi, Adames, and Thrakomakedones, as well as the Olympic village. The fire also threatened the Tatoi Royal Palace.

Firefighters also battled strong blazes on the Greek islands of Kos and Evia, as well as the Peloponnese peninsula, as some residents were evacuating.

"The hours are critical and the conditions we face extremely dangerous," Greece's Deputy Minister for Civil Protection, Nikos Hardalias, said Tuesday. "Our country is experiencing an extreme weather phenomenon the last days, one of the worst heatwaves of the last 40 years."

Updating journalists on the Athens-area fire Wednesday, Hardalias said an initial estimate was that 76 houses and 27 businesses had been seriously damaged. More than 70 people have been taken to the hospital with respiratory problems since Tuesday, Greek Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias added.

The European Commission said it was working around the clock to mobilize support for firefighting operations in the worst-hit countries. Two firefighting airplanes are being sent Wednesday from France to affected areas in Italy, it said in a news release, and two firefighting planes from Cyprus are supporting Greece.

The Netherlands and Czech Republic are sending helicopters to Albania, and Slovenia is deploying 45 firefighters to North Macedonia, it added.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that she was following the situation with great concern. "European solidarity is at work to fight these terrible fires. We are with you," she said.

A number of wildfires are burning in the east and northeast of North Macedonia, according to the European Commission's Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC), forcing evacuations from Kochani City.

Albania has suffered more than 120 fires in recent weeks following sustained high temperatures, with the Vlora region facing the most critical situation, the ERCC said.

The Italian farmers' association, Coldiretti, said Wednesday that its analysis of fire data indicated that large fires had tripled in the summer of 2021 compared to the historical average from 2008 to 2020, causing damage worth millions of euros to the environment, the economy, work and tourism.

The blazes have incinerated tens of thousands of hectares of woods and Mediterranean scrub across the country, it said, leaving dead animals and charred trees, olive groves and pastures behind them, as well as threatening urban areas.

Meanwhile, Turkey was fighting against 11 fires in six provinces as of Tuesday, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli tweeted on his official account.

A total of 152 fires in 32 provinces have been brought under control in Turkey in the last six days, he said.

Speaking at a government news conference in Marmaris, Pakdemirli said the Marmaris district of Mugla province had seen an all-time high temperature of 43.5 degrees Celsius with very low humidity -- less than 10% -- and 65 kilometers per hour (40 mph) wind speed.

More than 2,000 houses have been damaged in Antalya and another 347 in Mugla, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told the news conference.

The mayor of Milas, a city in southwestern Turkey, said flames from the ongoing fires had reached close to a power plant Tuesday evening.

"The situation is very serious," said Mayor Muhammet Tokat. "The flames came near a thermal power plant. If possible, a plane or helicopter with night vision should be directed to the area immediately."

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