Compared to the yearly average, the number of large wildfires in Italy is estimated to have tripled. Central and southern regions suffer millions of euros of damage to the environment and economy.
Meanwhile, the north of Italy has experienced severe flooding and landslides in the past few days. Lombardy has seen heavy rainfall. This led to Lake Como bursting its banks early this morning (Thursday 5th August).
The landslides and flooding in the north of Italy have also affected the Alto-Adige region, where a landslide blocked the Brenner pass close to Italy’s border with Austria.
“Flooding and intense rains in the north, fires in the south – the country has been split in two,” said Fabrizio Curcio, the chief of Italy’s civil protection authority.
Fires in central and southern Italy
The majority of the wildfires have hit southern regions including Lazio, Campania, Puglia, Calabria, Basilicata. Sicily has been particularly hard hit and several fires are still active between the port city of Messina and capital, Palermo.
On Sunday, holidaymakers were evacuated from a beach in Pescara, Abruzzo after a fire devastated a pine wood close by. There have also been fires in the Tuscany and Umbria regions.
Sardinia experienced the first major fires between 24 and 26 July, which destroyed 10,000 hectares (24,710 acres) of forest.
“It was a catastrophic event,” said Roberto Cingolani, Italy’s ecological transition minister. “On all of these incidents, we need to reflect.”
A national emergency for safety and the economy
Coldiretti, Italy’s main farmers’ association, said the number of wildfires has tripled in 2021. This is compared with the yearly average between 2008 and 2020. “It is a real national emergency for the safety of people and the economy,” Coldiretti said in a statement.
In recent days, the police made several arrests in connection with the fires. Cingolani said 57% of the fires were malicious and 13.7% were due to negligence.
“More than 70% of the fires in Italy are our responsibility,” he added. “Less than 2% are caused naturally, for example by a lightning strike. For 4.4% the cause is undetermined and 22% are unclassifiable situations in which it is difficult to know what triggered the fire.”