Thousands of animals perish, 1 500 people evacuate as massive wildfires ravage Sardinia, Italy


1 500 people have been forced to evacuate parts of south-western Sardinia, Italy after devastating wildfires fueled by strong and hot winds rapidly spread through parts of the island over the weekend, July 24 and 25, 2021. Regional governor described the wildfires as unprecedented in Sardinia's history.

According to the Italian Ministry of Interior, rescue operations continue following the forest fires that have been affecting the province of Oristano for some days, in the territories of Santu Lussurgiu, Cuglieri, Tresnuraghes, Frossio, Sennariolo, Usellus, Porto Albe, Scano di Montiferro and Cabras.

As of Monday, July 26, the fires have consumed more than 20 000 ha (50 000 acres) of forest and forced more than 1 500 people to evacuate.

While there has been no loss to human life, thousands of animals, including sheep, goats, pigs, and cows have perished in flames.

"It is an unprecedented reality in Sardinia’s history," regional governor Christian Salinas said. "So far, 20 000 hectares of forest that represent centuries of the environmental history of our island have gone up in ashes."

"The damage is immeasurable," Solinas told Ansa. "It has left whole communities on their knees, along with their economic and social fabric."

"It has inflicted a fatal wound on this precious environmental heritage. Whole forests were completely destroyed. Firms and homes devastated. An enormous number of livestock animals were killed in the fire." 

Farmers' association Coldiretti said it would take at least 15 years to recreate the forests and the pastures that have gone up in smoke.

A thousand-year-old olive tree that was the symbol of the hilltop village of Cuglieri was also destroyed by the fire.

The situation for the people seems to be under control, Alessandro Paola, deputy chief for the Italian firefighters' emergency department, said Monday, July 26.

"These are extraordinary fires for the magnitude, but also ordinary for the season, unfortunately," said Gianfilippo Micillo, head of the Italian firefighters’ wildfires coordination department.

"Summer blazes in Sardinia with so much dry vegetation, the strong winds, and the high temperatures take place every year. These fires create their own microclimate and propagate very fast."

Italy is experiencing an increase in wildfires this year, Micillo said, adding that this 'happens every four or five years when low bushes and scrub grow enough in deserted areas to become fuel for a spark ignited accidentally, or intentionally, by human activity.'

Featured image credit: Vigili del Fuoco


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