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Greece fires fueled by heat wave kill at least 3 on Evia island as deadly blazes hit Europe and Algeria

Wildfires ravage southern Europe and beyond
Extreme heat, wildfires linked to climate change cause chaos across southern Europe and beyond 01:35

The death toll from the devastating wildfires charring parts of Southern Europe and North Africa climbed to at least 40 on Wednesday. Tens of thousands of people — both residents and tourists — have been forced to evacuate from several of Greece's popular Mediterranean islands.

Large parts of the Mediterranean region have been sweltering under a series of heat waves, with temperatures expected to hit 113 degrees in central and southern Greece Wednesday, according to the national meteorological service.

The majority of the fatalities have been in Algeria, where 34 people had lost their lives as of Wednesday. Among the dead were 10 soldiers who became trapped by flames in the coastal Bejaia province.

People inspect the remains of a farm in the aftermath of a wildfire near the town of Melloula in northwest Tunisia, close to the border with Algeria, July 26, 2023. At least 300 people were evacuated by sea and by land from Melloula, according to the Tunisian national guard, as fires raged again there.  FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty

But the fires in Europe have also proven deadly. On the Italian island of Sicily, the bodies of a couple in their 70s were found in their burnt-out home on the outskirts of Palermo. Another woman in her late 80s died because an ambulance was unable to reach her due to fires in the area. In the Calabria region, a bedridden 98-year-old man was killed when a fire consumed his home.

In Greece, a 41-year-old man was found dead in a burned shack in a remote area of the island of Evia. A firefighting tanker plane crashed into a hillside on the same island Tuesday after it dropped water on a blaze, killing both pilots.

Extreme heat and wildfires hit Europe 02:06

Greek authorities have evacuated more than 20,000 people from the popular summer destination of Rhodes in recent days, with some 3,000 tourists forced to cut their holidays short and make their way home.

Further north in Croatia, wildfires that broke out near the city of Dubrovnik triggered landmine explosions, according to local media reports. Areas around Dubrovnik are still contaminated by explosive devices left after the Croatian War of Independence in the 1990s.

More than 600 firefighters deployed to try to contain a fire near the popular holiday destination of Cascais, on the outskirts of Lisbon in Portugal, meanwhile.

Villagers watch the progression of a wildfire as it approaches Zambujeiro village in Cascais, Portugal, July 25, 2023. PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP via Getty Images

Strong winds threatened to quickly spread the blaze in the Sintra-Cascais natural park, as desperate residents tried to protect their homes with buckets of water and garden hoses.

Scientists from the World Weather Attribution group said this week the heat waves that have hit parts of Europe and North America this month would have been "virtually impossible" without human-caused climate change.

In an extreme contrast to the tinder-dry south, powerful storms have brought hurricane-force winds and torrential downpours in northern parts of Italy and in Germany. Falling trees killed a girl scout in her tent and another woman during powerful storms in northern Italy.

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