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At least 65 killed in Algerian wildfires, Greece and Italy burn

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(Last Updated On: August 12, 2021)

Exhausted Greek firefighters battled blazes for a ninth day on Wednesday amid sweltering temperatures that also helped stoke wildfires in Algeria, where at least 65 people died, and in southern Italy, Reuters reported.

From Turkey to Tunisia, countries around the Mediterranean have been seeing some of their highest temperatures in decades, as the United Nations climate panel this week warned that the world was dangerously close to runaway warming.

Greece, in the grip of its worst heatwave in three decades, evacuated around 20 villages on the Peloponnese, though ancient Olympia, site of the first Olympic Games, escaped the inferno, Reuters reported.

About 580 Greek firefighters, helped by colleagues from France, Britain, Germany and the Czech Republic, were battling blazes in Gortynia, near Olympia.

Flare-ups continued to ravage Evia, Greece’s second-largest island, just off the mainland east of Athens and scene of some of the worst devastation in the past week, Reuters reported.

“If helicopters and water bombing planes had come right away and operated for six, seven hours, the wildfire would have been put out in the first day,” said cafe owner Thrasyvoulos Kotzias, 34, gazing at an empty beach in the resort of Pefki on Evia.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has called it a “nightmarish summer” and has apologised for failures in tackling some of the more than 500 wildfires that have raged across Greece.

At the other end of the Mediterranean, Algeria’s government deployed the army to help fight fires that tore through forested areas in the north of the country, killing at least 65 people, including 28 soldiers.

The worst hit area has been Tizi Ouzou, the largest district of the mountainous Kabylie region, where houses have burned and residents fled to shelter in hotels, hostels and university accommodation in nearby towns.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared three days of national mourning for the dead.

In southern Italy fires ravaged thousands of acres of land as temperatures hit records well above 40 degrees Celsius and hot winds fanned the flames, Reuters reported.

Firefighters said on Twitter they had carried out more than 3,000 operations in Sicily and Calabria in the last 12 hours, deploying seven planes to try to douse the flames.

“We are losing our history, our identity is turning to ashes, our soul is burning,” a local mayor in Calabria, Giuseppe Falcomata, wrote on Facebook, after a 76-year-old man died when flames engulfed his house.

Tunisia’s capital Tunis recorded its highest ever temperature of 49C on Tuesday, the Meteorological Institute said.

Turkey has also suffered nearly 300 wildfires over the past two weeks which have devastated tens of thousands of hectares of woodland, though only three were reported still burning as of late Wednesday.

Turkey’s northern coast, however, faced a different challenge – floods after unusually heavy rainfall that tore down a bridge and left villages without power.

The wildfires are not limited to the Mediterranean region. California has suffered the second-largest wildfire in its history that by late on Sunday had covered nearly 500,000 acres (2,000 sq km).

The U.N. climate panel published a report on Monday that said greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were high enough to guarantee climate disruption for decades if not centuries.

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Bus crash in Croatia leaves 12 Polish pilgrims dead, 32 injured

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(Last Updated On: August 7, 2022)

Twelve people were killed in Croatia on Saturday when a Polish bus filled with religious pilgrims slipped off a road and crashed near Varazdin, authorities said, Reuters reported.

Thirty-two people were injured in the crash which happened at 5:40 a.m. (0340 GMT) on the highway between Varazdin, in northwest Croatia, and capital Zagreb.

Croatian Health Minister Vili Beros said 19 people were in a serious condition.

According to Reuters Marcin Przydacz, deputy head of the Polish Foreign Ministry, who was travelling to the site on Saturday, said the injured were being treated at five hospitals in Croatia.

He said there were 44 Polish pilgrims on the bus driving from Poland to Medjugorje, a Roman Catholic shrine in southern Bosnia, including two drivers. Among them were three priests and six nuns, a ministry spokesman said.

Police cleared the area where the accident took place after firefighters and medical teams recovered all the occupants of the vehicle which had Warsaw registration plates, read the report.

Polish police officers, in Croatia as part of project “Safe Tourist Destination” project, were helping Croatian authorities in communicating with the survivors.

An investigation has been started into the cause of the accident.

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Taiwan official leading missile production dies of heart attack

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(Last Updated On: August 6, 2022)

The deputy head of Taiwan defence ministry’s research and development unit was found dead on Saturday morning in a hotel room, succumbing to a heart attack, according to the official Central News Agency.

Ou Yang Li-hsing, deputy head of the military-owned National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, had died in a hotel room in southern Taiwan, CNA reported.

Authorities said 57-year-old Ou Yang died of a heart attack and the hotel room showed no sign of any ‘intrusion’, CNA said.

His family said he had a history of heart disease and had a cardiac stent, according to the report, Reuters reported.

Ou Yang was on a business trip to the southern county of Pingtung, CNA said, adding that he had assumed the post early this year to supervise various missile production projects.

The military-owned body is working to more than double its yearly missile production capacity to close to 500 this year, as the island boosts its combat power amid what it sees as China’s growing military threat.

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Four people critically injured in lightning strike near White House

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(Last Updated On: August 5, 2022)

Four people were in critical condition on Thursday after a lightning strike at Washington’s Lafayette Square in front of the White House, Reuters quoted a D.C. fire official said.

The injured – two adult males and two adult females – were transported to area hospitals with life-threatening injuries, Vito Maggiolo, a D.C. Fire and EMS spokesperson, said.

According to Reuters Lafayette Square, a seven-acre public park that lies directly north of the White House, is often crowded with visitors, especially in the summer months. The lightning struck the four people near a tree that stands yards away from the fence that surrounds the presidential residence and offices.

Temperatures in Washington exceeded 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.2 degrees Celsius) on Thursday, although, with the high humidity, the heat felt like more than 100F, forecasters said. A violent thunderstorm swept through the capital late in the day, read the report.

Officers of the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Park Police, which have a regular presence in the square, went to the assistance of the victims immediately, Maggiolo said.

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