Wildfires erupt across Balkan countries; maybe caused by arson


Several wildfires have erupted in Southeast Europe and are said to have been caused by arson. As firefighters battle to contain them, the fires may not be fully contained quickly due to the extremely high temperatures.

In Croatia, the blazes have spread over several locations along the coast and onto the islands, engulfing pine forests and low shrubbery in extremely dry and windy weather. Fires between the Croatian town of Omis and Split have reportedly destroyed 4,500 hectares of forest.

Southern Italy had to deal with its own wildfires less than a week earlier. The flames consumed swathes of land in the provinces of Cosenza and Salerno as well as parts of Sicily. Portugal was also affected by wildfires a month ago.

Firefighters used aircraft to try to tackle the flames, which continued overnight in both Croatia and neighboring Montenegro. The military was also called in to help in both countries. Montenegro also requested NATO's assistance.

Fires that have raged for days in neighboring Montenegro have been brought under control, with soldiers helping to put out blazes on the Lustica peninsula near the town of Tivat. Some remote areas of Montenegro continue to be affected.

While there were no reports of casualties and the fires only reached a few homes, some people could only stand by and watch as the flames razed everything in their way. 

Sources said that more than 100 tourists had to be brought to safety in Montenegro alone, as wildfires came threatening close to human habitats.

Forest fires are common in southern Europe each summer, and can sometimes be caused by reckless tourists. However, there have also been cases where speculators have deliberately set fire to properties seeking new land to build on.

Europe has been experiencing an unusual heat wave this summer, with temperatures approaching record levels in many places. Earlier in May, sources said that prolonged heat, including several dangerous heat waves, will be a major issue across southern and eastern Europe throughout the summer which might cause major problems among which is forest fires.