France, Greece send aircraft to help tackle Italy fires

As many as 1,200 people have been evacuated from their homes. PHOTO: REUTERS/CRONACHE NUORESI

ROME (AFP) - Firefighting aircraft from France and Greece arrived in Italy on Sunday (July 25) following an appeal for help in taming fires raging across parts of Sardinia that have forced hundreds of people from their homes.

"It's a disaster without precedent," the island's governor Christian Solinas said, as hot southwesterly winds complicated the efforts to put out the blazes and the region declared a state of emergency.

As many as 1,200 people had been evacuated from their homes, including residents of a care home, according to Rai News.

Frightened tourists were among those fleeing the little seaside village of Porto Alabe, it said.

Canadair planes could be seen collecting water off the coast of Porto Alabe, before flying low over beachfront properties and emptying it over the blazing vegetation just behind them.

Italy's Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Facebook that the civil protection agency had appealed for planes from other European countries.

Two had already arrived from France and two from Greece, the agency said.

A vast area in the Oristano province in the west was "on its knees due to the devastating fire", he said.

About 20,000 hectares of vegetation had gone up in flames, with properties damaged and animals killed, Solinas said. The fire danger level remained "extreme", the civil protection agency said.

About 7,500 emergency workers, including members of Italy's forest police and the Red Cross, were helping evacuees and those at risk, the fire service said.

Solinas said it was too early to know the extent of the destruction but he would ask the government to allocate recovery fund money for reforestation.

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