Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Wildfires rage amid summer heat in north Mediterranean: Greece, Spain, Turkey

Wildfires are raging amid summer heat across several areas north of the Mediterranean on Tuesday, authorities said.

A forest fire that broke out early Monday has devastated swathes of land on the Greek island of Chios, coming on the heels of wildfires in various regions of Spain and Turkey's western coast.

According to authorities, who have declared a state of emergency on the island, the flames in Chios have ravaged over 3,500 hectares (8,650 acres) of countryside, including large plantations of Pistacia lentiscus, also known as the mastic tree.

The fire threatened several villages, although none of them were ultimately evacuated, with strong gales (force eight on the Beaufort Wind Scale) rapidly propagating the flames across the island.

At least 180 firefighters and 54 fire trucks have been deployed to the area, in addition to 70 volunteers and military personnel, while two airplanes and three helicopters helped in firefighting efforts.

It is estimated the fire has destroyed 90 percent of mastic crops in the affected area, which only constitutes five to seven percent of the island's total plantations, the head of the mastic planters' association, Yorgos Tumbos, told EFE.

  • The ivory-colored aromatic resin of this shrub, popularly known as "Chios tears" or mastic, is harvested to use in pharmaceutical products, cosmetics, liquors, bakery or as a chewable condiment, and is the Aegean island's main export.

Meanwhile, Level 2 emergency status was declared Monday in the northwestern Spanish province of Zamora, when a blaze erupted at a waste dump in the town of Vega de Tera and quickly engulfed surrounding woodlands.

Also, a fire started near the southwestern Spanish coast, in forest land between the villages of Artana and Onda, in the Valencian Community.

A vast forest fire also erupted Sunday evening near a NATO base in the Buca district of Izmir, on western Turkey's Aegean coast, with Turkish authorities investigating whether it was an act of sabotage, local media reported.

Izmir is home to NATO's Allied Land Command (LANDCOM) center and various populated areas which have been evacuated, according to CNNTurk.

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