Europe on Fire: 70 Dead in Greece as Wildfires Burn in the Arctic

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Aerial image showing forest fires burning near Ljusdal, Sweden, on July 18, 2018. Some of Sweden’s fires this summer have ignited even further north, inside the Arctic Circle. Maja Suslin/AFP/Getty Images

It’s so hot in Europe that even parts of the Arctic are on fire. Temperatures this month reached 86 degrees Fahrenheit well inside the Arctic Circle in Sweden, where the worst fires the country has seen in decades are now burning. More than 50 wildfires have ignited across the country, forcing evacuations. Finland and Norway are also fighting flames.

“This is a serious situation and the risk for forest fires is extremely high in the whole country,” Jakob Wernerman, operative head of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, told the Associated Press.

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Aftermath of the Greece fires. Credit: Getty

So far, no deaths from wildfires have been reported in Scandinavia, but Greece hasn’t been so fortunate. The country declared a state of emergency as raging forest fires have killed more than 70 people and injured more than 180 as they approach the capital Athens. High temperatures forced the Acropolis to close for several hours this week. A Red Cross official revealed that 26 bodies were found huddled together in the yard of a villa in the seaside village of Mati, while many other casualties were found in their homes or cars.

“There are no words to describe the feelings of all of us, these times,” said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras during a televised address Tuesday. “The country is going through a tragedy.”

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Wildfires forced people into the ocean. Credit: Getty Images

The heat and drought pattern is similar to that playing out much further north in Latvia and Sweden. Parts of Italy are also on fire and earlier this year, enormous fires scorched Siberia. Across Europe, fire risks remain high in the coming weeks, according to the European Forest Fire Information System. Heavy rain is forecast across southern Greece on Wednesday.

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Fire risk across Europe. Credit: European Forest Fire Information System

Several European countries are now chipping in to help put out the fires. Sweden is getting assistance from France, Germany, Lithuania, Norway, Portugal, and Italy, who are contributing fire trucks, firefighters, soldiers, and water-bombing aircraft. The European Union is also mobilizing support staff and equipment to fight fires in Greece under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

Buon giorno..oggi va così…

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But bizarrely, footage showing snowfall in the Dolomites in Italy has emerged showing just how contradictory this summers’ weather in Europe is. This rare phenomenon was filmed on July 21 and shows heavy snow falling over an already blanketed ground of snow. The storm is so strong that visibility is clearly reduced and objects disappear in the distance into the thick-grey fog.

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