Sicily Travel Warning: Wildfires Force Evacuation Of Tourists And Threaten Heritage Site

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The heatwave that has been scorching southern Europe has increased the risk of fires and heat-related deaths in Italy.

Wildfires are raging across the Italian island of Sicily, spread by strong winds and arid conditions. 

The blazes have forced residents and tourists to evacuate and caused severe public transport disruption. 

Palermo Airport, which services the island’s capital, was forced to close early on Tuesday morning after fires broke out nearby.

The airport has now reopened, but fires continue to burn in other areas of the island, including in the famed archaeological park of Segesta.

It comes as Sicily swelters in soaring temperatures, creeping towards the European record that was reached two years ago on the island.

Catania, a city on the east coast, registered 47.6 C on Monday afternoon.

Sicily wildfires: 'People cannot breathe'

According to local media reports, wildfires are raging across the island including around Palermo, Catania and Messina.

Three people have died. The charred bodies of an elderly couple were found in their home near Palermo while a woman is reported to have died after an ambulance was prevented by the fire from reaching her house.

Sicily's president Renato Schifani said the fire had made Tuesday "one of the most difficult days in decades".

Local residents have taken to social media to bring attention to the disaster.

"People cannot BREATHE from how polluted and hot air is, they are being forced on the street because their homes are BURNING," writes Twitter user Carmen.

On Tuesday, Italian firefighters tackled 650 fires in Sicily. 

Tourists evacuated from Sicily resorts amid wildfires

In Carruba di Riposto, just north of the city of Catania, a vast wildfire is devastating an area of rich vegetation.

As a precaution, guests at the resorts of Donna Carmela and San Antonio and the Galea agritourism have been evacuated.

Near Trapani on the west coast of the island, resorts and hotels in San Vito Lo Capo have also been evacuated.

The renowned archaeological park of Segesta has been badly affected by fires too. The park is home to some of Italy’s most important ancient buildings.

This includes the Doric Temple dating from the 5th century BC, which local reports say was engulfed in flames on Monday night.

Fire forces closure of major Sicily airport

A wildfire caused Palermo’s Falcone Borsellino Airport to halt air traffic until 11 am local time on Tuesday according to an announcement on social media.

The blaze broke out on Monday evening above the town of Cinisi with firefighters battling to contain it throughout the night.

The airport, which serves the island’s capital, published a tweet stating that a limited number of outbound flights were being permitted to leave. A plane from the Italian city of Turin had also been able to land.

Later, the airport confirmed it was operative for departing flights but inbound services were will dependent on weather conditions.

The blaze also caused road and rail disruption in the surrounding area. 

Catania airport was forced to close last week due to a fire in the terminal building and has now partially reopened.

It has prompted fears that the island will be hit by economic losses from cancelled tourist visits. 

"I hope that tourist flows in the areas affected by the fires will not suffer losses," Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci told the Italian press.

Sicily swelters in over 45 degree heat

The heatwave that has been scorching southern Europe has increased the risk of fires and heat-related deaths in Italy.

In Sicily, the mercury hit 46.7 C in Catania, just short of the European record of 48.8 that was registered in Syracuse in 2021.

On Tuesday, 16 cities in Italy were put on red alert because of the soaring temperatures, including Palermo and Catania.

In the northern city of Milan, a storm on Monday night ripped off roofs and uprooted trees. Roads have been blocked and the overground transport system is facing disruption.