Va­ca­tion­ers scram­ble in ‘tense’ evac­u­a­tion from Si­cily wild fires

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - COLLEEN BARRY

MI­LAN — Va­ca­tion­ers evac­u­ated from a re­sort in Si­cily be­cause of wild­fires de­scribed Thurs­day how their day at the beach turned into an emer­gency evac­u­a­tion by sea, many wear­ing just their bathing suits and flip flops.

Wild­fires fu­elled by heat and winds have been blaz­ing across much of south­ern Italy, forc­ing the evac­u­a­tion of some 800 tourists from the Calamp­iso re­sort in Vito Lo Capo near Tra­pani, Si­cily.

About 20 peo­ple had to leave an is­land off Puglia and some 50 fam­i­lies were whisked away from Mount Ve­su­vius south of Naples.

Au­thor­i­ties say the num­ber of blazes — 125 ac­tive in Si­cily alone — sug­gest ar­son and Italy’s en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter did not rule out Mafia in­volve­ment in an in­ter­view in Cor­riere della Sera.

Gian Luca Gal­letti was quoted by Cor­riere as say­ing that there were too many fires on Mount Ve­su­vius for them to be spon­ta­neous, join­ing voices who say the Mafia ap­pears to be be­hind many of the blazes.

“I don’t have proof, but it does not seem to be an iso­lated ac­tion or chance: three ig­ni­tion points are too many to be the re­sult of care­less­ness or com­bus­tion,” Gal­letti said.

Danilo Gian­nese, one of the evac­uees in Si­cily, said he and his wife went swim­ming as usual early Wed­nes­day along with many other guests.

“The sit­u­a­tion was a lit­tle sur­real. We went to swim like ev­ery other day. From the early morn­ing, we saw flames and smoke, but it didn’t ap­pear to be wor­ry­ing and no one said to leave,” he told SKY TG24 on Thurs­day.

But around noon, the wind shifted and re­sort guests were told to im­me­di­ately move their cars to safer ground.

They were told to gather on the beach for evac­u­a­tion be­cause the road to a nearby town was no longer safe.

“There was a lot of ten­sion, es­pe­cially among the el­derly and chil­dren, many of whom were cry­ing,” he said.

“Thank­fully the op­er­a­tion was con­ducted in an or­derly fash­ion.”

Stella Bel­liotti said she and her 7year-old daugh­ter were evac­u­ated wear­ing just their bathing suits and flip flops, each hold­ing pieces of cloth in their mouths against the smoke.

The va­ca­tion­ers were taken to a nearby town by fish­ing boats and dinghies.

“To see the re­sort sur­rounded by flames from the boat was ter­ri­ble,” Bel­liotti was quoted by Cor­riere as say­ing. “Now we just want to for­get it.” On Mount Ve­su­vius, fire­fight­ers were work­ing to pre­vent three blazes from join­ing up.

The army, mean­while, has been dis­patched to the Ve­su­vius area to help with preven­tion and re­as­sure res­i­dents.

FRANCESCO ARENA, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

An Ital­ian civil pro­tec­tion staffer tries to ex­tin­guish a fire in San Pi­etro in Guarano, south­ern Italy, Thurs­day.

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