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Sizzling Southeast Europe engulfed in forest fires and blackouts from heatwave
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Four dead as hundreds of Italian beachgoers rescued from wildfires
Jul 24 11:38 AM US/Eastern
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Wildfires claimed four lives Tuesday in southern Italy's Puglia region, where the coastguard evacuated hundreds of people from beaches hit by the blazes, officials said.
Two people were burned alive in their car near the town of Peschici, while another two were asphyxiated on a beach that was engulfed by flames nearby, ANSA said.
Meanwhile more than 1,000 beachgoers were evacuated by sea from beaches near Peschici, while in nearby Vieste, fires destroyed four campsites.
Cities opened schools to shelter the displaced campers as well as residents whose homes were threatened.
The evacuated beachgoers were taken to Manfredonia, a large city in the area.
Private citizens contributed boats to the coastguard fleet in the evacuation effort, ANSA said.
A crisis unit has been set up and top public safety and political figures went to the scene, officials said.
Meanwhile the president of neighbouring Molise called for a state of emergency to be declared in his region.
People were evacuated from part of the southern edge of Termoli, one of the main towns in Molise, because of a fire threatening their homes.
Strong winds were stoking fires in several areas while grounding firefighting helicopters as hundreds of forest and brush fires continued to burn in central and southern Italy amid searing temperatures.
Spain sent two Canadair water-bomber planes to help battle blazes in Sardinia, the Spanish defence ministry said.
Heat wave kills dozens in Balkans, sparking forest fires and power outages in region
The Associated PressPublished: July 24, 2007
BITOLA, Macedonia: Southeastern Europe baked in its second major heat wave in a month Tuesday, with at least 27 heat-related deaths in Romania, four in Italy, dozens of houses destroyed by forest fires in Macedonia and a nationwide power outage in Albania.
Romanian Health Minister Eugen Nicolaescu said at least 27 people — including another 12 on Monday — had died from the heat. Hundreds of others, most elderly, had collapsed in the streets from the heat.
In Macedonia, one person died and 20 were evacuated from burning houses near Bitola, the country's second-largest city, as temperatures reached 42C (107F) amid a declared national emergency.
Thousands of firefighters and local residents battled into Tuesday to contain the huge blaze, while President Branko Crvenkovski ordered army units mobilized to help with the effort. Firefighting airplanes and helicopters were expected to arrive Tuesday from Croatia, Turkey and Austria.
"We managed to defend the city and now have the fire under control. There is no threat to Bitola any more," Ivica Bocevski, a government spokesman, told The Associated Press.
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Thousands of hectares of forestland in Serbia were also reported destroyed by wildfires.
All of Albania was without power Tuesday afternoon due to a defect in a transmission line importing power from neighboring Macedonia, the energy minister said — worsening summer-long power shortages.
Buried ordnance from wars past posed another, unexpected threat for firefighters.
In Macedonia numerous shells dating from World War I exploded from the heat of the fires, said Kostadin Popovski, head of an army mine division.
Fires outside Kastoria in northern Greece ignited shells from World War II, while others dating from the Greek Civil War of 1946-49 exploded in Epirus province.
In Italy, dozens of fires raged, killing four people and destroying hundreds of hectares (acres) of forest, according to news reports.
From Castel Gandolfo in the hills south of Rome to the Amalfi coast and the Puglia region on the heel of Italy, firefighters were battling blazes amid soaring temperatures and strong winds.
Two charred bodies were found in the remains of a car on a road in Puglia, while another two people died suffocated by the smoke on a beach nearby, the ANSA news agency said.
Hundreds of tourists and residents had to leave their hotels or apartments when a huge fire broke out in the Gargano peninsula, a spur of land above the heel of the Italian boot, where temperatures hit 42 C (107.6 F), ANSA said. About 250 people on the beach had to be rescued by boat.
Firefighters took hours to put out a blaze in the Amalfi coast, while in Castel Gandolfo — where popes often vacation in August — 100 hectares (247 acres) of forest were burned and two hotels were evacuated, reports said.
Greek state services remained on alert as the country sweltered in temperatures up to 44C (111.2F). Athens was expected to reach 45C (113F) on Wednesday, with conditions worsened by high humidity and air pollution levels. Power demand was at all-time highs due to high air conditioner use.
Late Monday a 75-year-old man died in Corfu, probably of heat stroke, authorities said, with 13 others hospitalized.
Funeral services were to be held in Thessaloniki, northern Greece later Tuesday for two firefighting pilots killed Monday when their plane crashed in Evia. Another firefighting plane crashed in Italy Tuesday, killing the pilot and injuring another.
In Croatia, authorities decided to evacuate 1,400 residents and tourists from a village on the southern island of Solta, after the fire moved toward the village, carried by strong winds.
Several forest fires continued to blaze Tuesday in northern Greece, while another was burning at Aegio, near the western city of Patras.
A 39-year-old man was charged with arson Tuesday after being caught setting a fire along the Athens-Corinth national road, police said. Arson is suspected in many of the hundreds of forest fires plaguing Greece in recent weeks.
Power consumption in Greece hit an all-time record Monday, the Greek Public Power Corporation said.
Three damaged power stations remained inoperative Tuesday, further straining the system. Officials appealed to citizens to set air conditioners above 25C (77F), stagger appliance usage and avoid cooking.
Development minister Dimitris Sioufas asked for special restraint between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. (0800-1300 GMT). Officials said they were drawing down already depleted hydroelectric reservoirs and had boosted imports.
Athens municipality let office workers out at 12 noon and outdoor workers at 11 a.m. and opened air-conditioned public spaces for extended hours.
Meteorologists said temperatures should begin to abate by Thursday.
South Europe hit by extreme heat
Forest fires have raged across Greece amid soaring temperatures
South-Eastern Europe is reeling from hot weather that has killed more than 30 people and caused economic hardship.
The heat was blamed for 30 deaths in Romania and several elsewhere in the region. Farms in Serbia have seen much of this year's harvest scorched.
The record-breaking heat has also been blamed for widespread forest fires.
Parts of northern Europe have meanwhile seen vast floods and heavy rainfall - sparking fears that climate change may be to blame for the extreme weather.
Unusually high temperatures of more than 40C (104F) have been recorded in several parts of southern and eastern Europe.
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On Monday, temperatures of 45C (113F) were recorded in Bulgaria - the hottest since records began, officials said.
Temperatures in Romania are expected to reach 41C (106F) for the second day running on Tuesday, prompting authorities to put emergency services in many areas on "red alert".
In neighbouring Serbia, the agriculture ministry says 30% of the country's annual harvest has been destroyed because of the heat, with the wheat, soya and vegetable crops worst hit by the heat.
Belgrade has introduced restrictions on the export of agricultural products.
Hundreds of forest fires have been reported in Greece, where two pilots died on Monday after a water-bombing aircraft they were flying over a forest fire crashed.
Another such aircraft flying over a forest fire in Italy crashed on Monday, killing three people.
In the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, thousands of firefighters, soldiers and local people have been battling through the night to stop a forest fire from reaching the country's second-largest city, Bitola.
According to the Associated Press news agency, the encroaching blaze ignited mines and weapons that had lain buried in the soil since World War I.
In a 'normal' summer, the Atlantic jetstream directs areas of low pressure, which bring cloud and rain, to the north of the UK. High pressure systems over Europe and the Atlantic bring warm, settled conditions.
Pressure chart: 29/6/06. Source: Met Office
Fire rages outside Macedonian city; WWI shells explode
The Associated PressPublished: July 24, 2007
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BITOLA, Macedonia: One man died and 20 people were rescued from burning homes when a fire reached the outskirts of Macedonia's second largest city Tuesday, destroying several dozen homes and setting off unexploded shells from World War I.
Authorities said about 20 large fires, razing pine and oak forests, were reported across the country as temperatures reached 42 degrees Celsius (107 Fahrenheit) in a heat wave across the Balkans.
The sweltering heat has been blamed for 18 deaths in Romania in the past week. A firefighting plane crashed in Greece Monday and another went down in Italy, killing three people.
In Macedonia, several thousand firefighters, soldiers and local residents battled through the night to contain the fire in Bitola.
"We managed to defend the city and now have the fire under control. There is no threat for Bitola any more," Ivica Bocevski, a government spokesman, told the Associated Press.
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A man died of smoke inhalation in his summer house near Bitola, in southern Macedonia.
Authorities warned that unexploded bombs in the area from World War I posed an additional threat.
"A lot of this ordnance could be set off by the high temperatures and there is a risk for large explosions," Kostadin Popovski, head of an army mine division said. "We have already had several explosions."
Southern Macedonia was the scene of heavy fighting in World War I, during a drive by Allied forces in 1916 to support Serbia and stop the advance of opposing troops.
Macedonia last week declared a state of emergency, cutting the eight-hour working day to six hours, and granting pregnant women paid leave.
Late Monday, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said he had requested help from countries in the region to help deal with the fires, citing insufficient resources to deal with the crisis.
Gruevski left a parliament session in the capital Skopje to travel to Bitola and coordinate firefighting efforts.
"We have asked Greece and other neighboring countries for assistance. We also expect Turkey and Austria to send aircraft," Gruevski said.
Government officials said airplanes and helicopters from Croatia, Turkey and Austria are expected Tuesday.
President Branko Crvenkovski ordered army units to assist firefighters in Bitola, while the city's mayor Vladimir Talevski also urged residents to assist in the effort.
Despite the heat and strong winds, Pande Lazarevski, head of the national center for crisis management, also said there was evidence of arson.
"We have bolstered police patrols in several areas," he said.
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