VIDEO: Sicily set for state of emergency as wildfires blaze

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VIDEO: Sicily set for state of emergency as wildfires blaze
Sicily has been hit by devastating wildfires over the past week, fuelled by extreme temperatures and arid conditions. Illustration photo: Federico SCOPPA / AFP

Firefighters on Italy's southern island of Sicily have been battling huge wildfires that have left three elderly people dead. Authorities were expected to declare a state of emergency on Wednesday.


Sicily's regional president Renato Schifani said he planned to ask the government ahead of a Wednesday ministers' meeting to declare a state of emergency for the Mediterranean island.

Firefighters on the island spent a night battling wildfires, one of which got so close to Palermo airport that the facility was shut down for several hours Tuesday morning.

Italy's Civil Protection Department on Tuesday reported "extensive fires" across the south, saying air support had been requested for nine incidents in Sicily, nine in Calabria and another in Sardinia.

AFP news agency reported that the charred bodies of a couple in their 70s were found in their burnt-out home on the outskirts of Palermo and another woman in her late 80s died in the Palermo province after an ambulance was unable to reach her home due to fires in the area.

Some 120 families were evacuated from their homes nearby and power cuts were reported in many parts of Palermo, according to news agency Ansa.

Fires were still burning on the hills around Palermo on Wednesday, with Canadair planes operating in the skies over the island to try and douse the flames.


Italian firefighters said they battled nearly 1,400 fires between Sunday and Tuesday, including 650 in Sicily and 390 in Calabria.

On Tuesday Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci said: "We are experiencing in Italy one of the most complicated days in recent decades -- rainstorms, tornadoes and giant hail in the north, and scorching heat and devastating fires in the centre and south."

There are growing fears the wildfires will ruin threaten the island's tourist industry at the height of its busiest period.

"I hope that tourist flows in the areas affected by the fires will not suffer losses," Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci, a Sicilian, told the La Stampa newspaper. "The risk ... is there and it is understandable".




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