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EU Ramps Up Firefighting Planes Fleet As Climate Crisis in Southern Europe Intensifies

CRISIS - Biosystem Viability by Juan Samaniego Europe Jul 27th 20232 mins
EU Ramps Up Firefighting Planes Fleet As Climate Crisis in Southern Europe Intensifies

The European Union is in talks with manufacturers to purchase new firefighting planes to battle the devastating wildfires that are spreading across Italy’s Sicily and Mainland Greece, fuelled by scorching heat and strong winds. 

The European Union is in talks with manufacturers to buy new firefighting planes to battle the intense wildfires that are wreaking havoc on Southern European countries including Greece and Italy, Reuters reported.

The plan is to double the current buy up to 12 new firefighting planes, the first the bloc would fully own, as well as another 12 to bolster member states’ own national fleets – including Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain – for an estimated cost of €23 million (US$25.5 million). The bloc doubled its reserve fleet last year amid a devastating wildfire season that exhausted its ability to respond to the emergency.

“These planes will be technically bought by the member states but they will be 100% financed by the European Union,” said EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič.

Europe Is Burning

The announcement comes as Europe battles another summer characterised by record temperatures, destructive floods, and other extreme weather events.

Three people died in Greece amid intense wildfires that on Sunday prompted the evacuation of 19,000 people from Rhodes – a popular destination among tourists from the UK, Germany, and France – over the hottest weekend the country has recorded in 50 years.

Firefighters and rescue teams from several European countries – including the UK, the Czech Republic, and Italy – were sent to the Aegean island to assist in the evacuation efforts. France and Turkey sent water-dumping planes to support 49 fire trucks and 266 firefighters. Flights to the island have also been suspended until Tuesday, with airlines struggling to arrange enough return flights to bring back tourists, according to the state-run Athens News Agency.

61 wildfires broke out across the nation in the last 24 hours alone,  with strong winds and temperatures above 40C (104F) providing perfect conditions for them to spread quickly. 

According to Copernicus, the European Union’s Earth observation programme, the intense wildfires burning in Greece since 17 July are the worst recorded since at least 2003 for the month of July. Emissions in the European nation also reached a historic high for the month of July.

The situation is worsening quickly also in the Italian island of Sicily, where firefighters have been working incessantly to put out blazes. An elderly couple was found dead inside their burnt-out home on the outskirts of the region’s capital, Palermo, while another woman in her 80s died after wildfires prevented an ambulance to reach her home.

According to the latest data by Vigili del Fuoco, Italy’s institutional agency for fire and rescue service, more than 3,000 firefighters are currently working to put out more than 1,400 blazes across Sicily and the southern mainland region of Calabria.

You might also like: Record-Breaking Heatwave Strikes Italy, Prompting Red Alert in 16 Cities

About the Author

Juan Samaniego

Juan is a freelance, science journalist based in Spain. He's editor of the environmental newsletter Planeta Mauna Loa and he regularly writes for the news outlets Climática and La Marea, where he covers topics related to the climate and biodiversity crisis. He has also written for El Pais, La Vanguardia and Faro de Vigo and he regularly makes contributions for universities, science institutions and companies working on the fields of science and environment.

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