From Turkey to Tunisia, countries around the Mediterranean have been seeing some of their highest temperatures in decades, as wildfires scorched thousands of hectares of forest and land near coastal areas.
On Wednesday, a regional weather station on the island of Syracuse, Italy, recorded a high temperature of 48.8 °C (119.8°F). If the figure is confirmed by the World Meteorological Organization, it would set a new European heat record.
This week a United Nations climate panel in Geneva, Switzerland warned that the world was dangerously close to runaway warming as a new heat wave swept through the Mediterranean.
Earlier this month, Greek authorities urged citizens to conserve electricity as the worst heatwave in more than 30 years pushed the power system to its limits and wildfires continued to burn in many areas.
“We’re dealing with the worst heatwave since 1987,” said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
From Turkey to Tunisia, wildfires have ravaged thousands of hectares of land. Algeria’s government deployed the army to help fight fires that tore through forested areas in the north of the country, killing at least 65 people, including 28 soldiers.
Multiple blazes erupted in Calabria, the toe of Italy’s boot, where a 76-year-old man died after his house collapsed due to the flames, Ansa news agency reported. Fires are also sweeping through Sicily, destroying trees and threatening property in the southern and central parts of the island, local media reported.
The worst hit area in Algeria has been Tizi Ouzou, the largest district of the mountainous Kabylie region, where houses have burned and residents fled to shelter in hotels, hostels and university accommodation in nearby towns.
President Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared three days of national mourning for the dead.
While the East Mediterranean region has had the worst part so far in terms of heat, for Portugal and Spain the worse is still to come. For the next few days, “Lucifer” as the heatwave has been nicknamed, is expected to arrive triggering weather warnings also over the West.