Evacuations by sea amid Sicily wildfires

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Emergency teams are battling wildfires that have devastated the Palermo area of Sicily in Italy.
Camera IconEmergency teams are battling wildfires that have devastated the Palermo area of Sicily in Italy. Credit: EPA

Firefighters on the Italian island of Sicily are battling dozens of wildfires fuelled by searing temperatures as some people were evacuated from Catania by boat.

Some 150 people trapped in two seaside areas in the city of Catania were evacuated late Friday by sea, where they were picked up by rubber dinghies and transferred to Coast Guard boats. A beach concession area with sunbeds and umbrellas was completely destroyed by fire.

The Catania airport also was briefly closed to give precedence to helicopters and planes battling the flames.

Regional Governor Nello Musumeci told reporters that some fires appeared to have been caused by arsonists, while others had natural causes as temperatures hit record levels.

While convicted arsonists face jail time in Italy, Musumeci said it is usually limited to six months or a year. "Instead it should be a life sentence," he said.

The wildfires also affected the Sicilian provinces of Palermo, Syracuse and Messina.

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