Wildfires are ravaging the south of Italy, with the main cities of the island of Sicily cut off by the fires. The provinces of Catania and Palermo are in a critical state after the blazes left thousands of residents without electricity or water. The situation has been aggravated by last week’s high temperatures.
While key members of the Italian government don’t believe in climate change, officials were quick to recognize the scope of the damage caused by the fires. “It has been one of the worst weeks in history,” said Nello Musumeci, the minister for civil protection.
Sicilian President Renato Schifani has declared a state of crisis, and said he planned to ask the government of Georgia Meloni to declare a state of emergency for the Mediterranean island. According to the regional government, just reducing the damage caused to agriculture will cost at least €250 million ($278 million). The president of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, told Schifani that he will have all help possible to tackle the impact of the devastating fires.
At least five people have died in the wildfires, and given the scale of the blazes — which have also affected the Segesta archaeological park — the outlook does not look good. On Tuesday, the Palermo airport was shut for a few hours due to the fires, which are also affecting the provinces of Calabria and Apulia.
In the past few hours, the charred remains of a couple in their 70s were found in a burned-out house in Cinisi (Palermo), near the Falcone Borsellino airport, and an 88-year-old woman died in San Martino delle Scale (Palermo) after an ambulance was unable to reach her home due to the fires. This has brought the death toll up to five.
Another person in the Sicilian town of Patti remains missing, while two forest rangers were hospitalized with severe burns after helping to put out the fires. Another 2,000 people have been forced to evacuate due to the flames.
The fires have also caused enormous damage to the local economy. Power outages forced restaurants to shut and led to many hotel cancelations. Some neighborhoods of Palermo went 40 hours without electricity. The Palermo airport reopened late on Wednesday morning and air traffic resumed — a relief for an island heavily dependent on the tourism sector, which is the main engine of the Sicilian economy in summer.
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