600 evacuated as wildfires continue to rage in Piedmont

600 evacuated as wildfires continue to rage in Piedmont
Forest fires in Mompantero, in Val de Susa. Photo: Vigili del Fuoco
Some 600 people have been evacuated from their homes in the Val de Susa area of Piedmont as firefighters continue to battle wildfires.

Over 300 fires have raged across the region in recent weeks, destroying at least 1,600 hectares. The fires also claimed the life of a 26-year-old man last week as he tried to help his family escape.

185 elderly people were evacuated from a care home in Val de Susa, about 30km west of the regional capital of Turin, on Sunday.

“Firefighters were active throughout the night, with around 250 people employed,” said Franco Licini, a coordinator for Piemonte’s civil protection unit

Canadair aircraft from France, Switzerland and Croatia are also supporting efforts to extinguish the fires, along with over 600 volunteers.

“It’s a tremendous effort, considering that serious fires have continued since October 10th. The situation has been aggravated in recent days by strong, hot and dry wind coming down from the Alpine range,” added Licini.

At least 60 municipalities have been hit by the fires, including wooded and mountain areas in the province of Cuneo, which lies close to the French border. Blazes have also spread to Sondrio and Brescia in the Lombardy region.

The wild fires were flamed by recent winds and quickly spread through the dry, autumn landscape. The rugged and remote mountainous terrain makes it hard for emergency services to access certain areas where villages remain cut off in clouds of smoke.