ROME: A blistering heatwave is sweeping across Italy this week, fuelling fires in the south of the country, notably Sicily and Calabria, where a UNESCO-designated natural park is threatened, reports AFP.
Temperatures hit 47 degrees Celsius (116 degrees Fahrenheit) in Sicily on Tuesday, near Syracuse, with meteorologists warning that Italy’s all-time record of 48.5 degrees, in Sicily in 1999, could be beaten on Wednesday.
The island of Sicily and the region of Calabria have already been battling fires throughout the summer—many caused by arson but fuelled by the heat—with firefighters recording 300 interventions in the past 12 hours.
The Madonie mountain range, near the Sicilian capital Palermo, has for several days been besieged by flames that have destroyed crops, animals, homes and industrial buildings.
Sicily’s governor, Nello Musumeci, called for a state of emergency to be declared for mountains, while Agriculture Minister Stefano Patuanelli visited Wednesday to meet local mayors.
In Calabria, fires threatened the Aspromonte mountain range, designated as a UNESCO area of international geological significance.
The deputy head of environmental NGO WWF Italy, Dante Caserta, called for more resources, such as air support, to quell the flames “or it will be too late, and we will lose forever a priceless heritage”.