Trial by fire for Albania as wildfires rage

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times August 11, 2017 17:03

Trial by fire for Albania as wildfires rage

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  • Stifling heatwave blankets Albania making fires worse and causing health problems

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TIRANA, Aug. 10 – Albania has been hit by one of the worst wildfire season in recent times, with fires raging across the country aided by a stifling heatwave that has filled emergency rooms at an unprecedented rate.

Authorities said wildfires burned throughout the week, some being put down and others popping up in new place. Overall up to 20 hot spots were seen this week.

Firefighters, the armed forces, local volunteers as well as domestic and international airplanes and helicopters are fighting the fires. Greece and Italy have sent help after a request by the Albanian government, which has publicly thanked the neighbors for their assistance.

In a statement issued Thursday, Prime Minister Edi Rama said all state structures were being used in the emergency, despite the need to have greater firefighting capacities in place.

“Of the 280 fire hot spots where an intervention of state structures was needed, today, only eight of them are active, and this number is expected to decrease in the following hours thanks to the maximum preparedness, full coordination and high cooperation between the local and central institutions,” Rama said. “Undoubtedly, our capacities remain low in the face of such a serious threat and in the next four years we will seriously try to increase these capacities.”

The wildfire geography is as wide as the country with few religions left unaffected. The counties of Lezha, Tirana, Elbasan, Fier, Gjirokastra, Berat, Durrës and Korça all saw fires.

Some are accidental others, police suspect, are started on purpose.

Three people were arrested were arrested for allegedly having started a fire in the area near the Krraba tunnel linking Tirana with Elbasan. They had opened holes to dig up coal, leading to a fire starting. It continued to burn for three days, destroying more than 15 hectares of forest and bushes, authorities said.

Speaking about the dramatic situation faced, Defense Minister Mimi Kodheli said 40 percent of the country’s active duty personnel were involved in the firefighting operations. She urged people to come together to fight existing fires and prevent new ones from starting.

“The weather situation is out of the ordinary due to the high temperatures and lack of rainfall. And this has led the country to a very, very difficult situation,” Kodheli said at a press conference.

Albania has moved troops and vehicles out of bases as part of the fire defence operations, and Minister Kodheli said that the armed forces have participated in 102 operations in nine out of 12 counties of the country.

Director of Civil Emergencies Shemsi Premci said 640 different incidents had been recorded this fire season, and in 125 of these cases, an intervention from the air took place.

With the massive wildfire near Llogara Pass under control, new -wildfires continued to rage across the country mid-week, with new emergencies in the Dropull area south of Gjirokastra, where Greek airplanes are helping to put out and the fire at the request of Albanian authorities. A fire also rose in the Elbasan highlands, where residents have refused leave and are clearing out trees and bushes surrounding their homes as the fire approaches a small village.

In addition the fire Albania has been hit by a stifling heatwave that has sent hundreds of people to emergency rooms and has made the wildfires situation around the country worse.

The heatwave is affecting the entire southern part of the continent with temperatures not seen in a decade.

Authorities have urged people to stay inside and hydrated whenever possible.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times August 11, 2017 17:03