'It's like a nightmare': Wildfires break out in Sicily as flights cancelled and airport shuts after temperatures hit 47C

25 July 2023, 11:27 | Updated: 25 July 2023, 11:44

Wildfires have broken out in Sicily
Wildfires have broken out in Sicily. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

Wildfires broke out in Sicily overnight on Tuesday morning, reaching the airport of the island's capital city, with firefighters rushing to quell the blaze.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Palermo Airport was closed because of the fire, which emergency services eventually managed to get under control.

The airport partially reopened for business at 11am local time (10am UK time), with some flights able to land. Several flights have been cancelled.

One elderly woman suffering a medical emergency died because an ambulance was unable to reach her home because of the fire, Reuters reported.

The Sicily blaze comes at the same time as massive wildfires in Greece and elsewhere, amid soaring temperatures in southern Europe.

Read more: 'A terrible idea' EasyJet pilot urges tourists heading to Rhodes to get off plane leaving passengers in tears

Read more: Rhodes fires leave 30,000 Britons in holiday limbo as thousands evacuated across Greek islands

Temperatures rose to 47.6 C on Monday in some eastern parts of Sicily. That's close to the record European high of 48.8C, which was also recorded on the island in 2023.

Some 16 cities in Italy - including Palermo and Catania in Sicily - have been put on red-alert. Power cuts and water supply issues have been a frequent problem in some cities, with officials putting the outages down to the heat.

Meanwhile Sardinia, another Italian island that is further north than Sicily, has reached 46C over the past week.

Chiara Marcis, who lives in a seaside town on the island, told LBC: "This week is like a nightmare, like you can't go outside.

"During night, it seems like it's day, like last night was 30C."

Fires broke out in the area around Palermo
Fires broke out in the area around Palermo. Picture: Getty

Thousands of British tourists are still thought to be waiting for evacuation from the Greek island of Rhodes, which has been ravaged by wildfires in recent days.

Holiday operators and airlines have been running repatriation flights and regular scheduled trips to take people from the island.

TUI and Jet2 have cancelled flights to Rhodes, but a number of airlines are still running flights. Corfu, another Greek island, has also seen major wildfires, with authorities issuing another evacuation order on Tuesday morning.

Crete, a third island, has been put on high alert for fires.

Meanwhile fires have also broken out in several more Mediterranean countries, including Algeria and Tunisia in north Africa. Spain has also suffered wildfires.

A firefighter after rescuing a cat and two rabbits in Rhodes
A firefighter after rescuing a cat and two rabbits in Rhodes. Picture: Getty

The UK has seen very different conditions to much of the rest of Europe in recent weeks, with the weather often wet and grey instead.

But 40C temperatures - such as in summer 2022 - may become more frequent because of man-made climate change, according to the Met Office.

Rhodes has been ravaged by fires
Rhodes has been ravaged by fires. Picture: Getty

Forecaster Oli Claydon said: "The likelihood of exceeding it going forward somewhere in the UK in a given year is now increasing due to human-induced climate change.

"So as well as the need to mitigate against future climate change by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, we're already experiencing the impacts of climate change now."

And this weather, which until now has been considered extreme, is likely to prove fatal for elderly and vulnerable people, according to a climate change expert.

Dr Candice Howarth, of the London School of Economics Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, said: "If the government fails to show more leadership in preparing for these extreme heat events, then we are likely to see a rise in heat-related deaths, wider impacts on workers’ health and productivity, and increasing rates of overheating in UK homes and buildings."

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Starmer labels Farage's comments 'disgraceful'

Farage doubles down on Ukraine comments after Sunak and Starmer condemned Reform UK leader

England manager Gareth Southgate has suggested his team are not fit enough

Gareth Southgate says England squad have 'limitations' after lacklustre start to Euro 2024

Just Stop Oil plans major disruption to summer holidays with private jet stunt just the start

Two Just Stop Oil protesters deny causing £52,000 worth of damage after private jets sprayed with orange paint

Sir Keir Starmer, (L), and Kemi Badenoch

‘We are not rejoining the EU’: Starmer shuts down Badenoch’s claim Labour want to ‘reverse Brexit’

Rowling criticises Sir Keir along with several members of his shadow cabinet

JK Rowling 'struggling to support' Labour over Sir Keir's stance on transgender rights that's 'abandoning' women

Taylor Swift poses with the Royal Family

Taylor Swift takes selfie with William, George and Charlotte - as Prince of Wales spotted dancing away to ‘Shake It Off’

Chris Packham has blamed the media for the radical action of Just Stop Oil

Environmental activist Chris Packham blames media for existence of Just Stop Oil

Starmer labels Farage's comments 'disgraceful'

Farage’s comments on Ukraine are ‘disgraceful’, Starmer tells LBC, as PM accuses him of ‘playing into Putin’s hands’

Timberlake was arrested after having dinner with friends on Long Island

Justin Timberlake breaks silence on drink-driving arrest at Chicago concert

Nigel Farage

General Election LIVE: Tories rally against Farage after Reform leader says West provoked Russia into invading Ukraine

Dr Michael Mosley and his wife, Clare.

‘We miss him so much’: Michael Mosley’s widow says she will continue his work in emotional tribute

Temperatures are expected to soar to 30C

Exact date Brits to bask in 30C heat as Met Office predicts first official heatwave of summer

The four individuals were given sentences ranging from four to four-and-a-half years

Four members of Britain's richest family handed jail sentences after exploiting servants in Geneva villa

Jay Slater had travelled to the Canary Islands for a music festival

Search for missing British teenager in Tenerife hindered by social media conspiracy theories

Damage can be seen to a front window law enforcement officers work the scene of a shooting at the Mad Butcher grocery store in Fordyce, Ark

Three killed and 10 injured in shooting at supermarket in Arkansas

Jay Slater had travelled to the Canary Islands for a music festival

Spanish police reject help from Lancashire Constabulary as desperate search for missing Brit Jay Slater continues