Raging forest fires in central Sardinia have forced at least 900 people from their homes.
Four planes from France and Greece were sent to help put out the wildfires, which have consumed around 20,000 hectares in the Italian province of Oristano – the size of about 20,000 rugby fields.
The aircraft joined 10 Italian firefighting squads and five other planes deployed to tackle the fires which broke out over the weekend and have been spread by dry southerly winds.
Firefighters spent all night battling the blaze near the town of Montiferro, which destroyed farms and engulfed some residential areas in smoke.
“Currently, the situation for the people seems to be under control,” said Alessandro Paola, deputy chief for the Italian firefighters’ emergency department.
He said this is dependent on the weather forecast.
The wildfires hit the area of Montiferru, in the centre-west of the island, because of a heatwave, according to the European Commission.
No deaths or injuries have been reported.
Christian Salinas, president of Sardinia region, called it “one of the most serious natural disasters ever to happen in Sardinia”, according to Italian news outlet Corriere della Sera.
He said the “huge firestorms favoured by weather and climate conditions absolutely at the limit” were an “unprecedented disaster” in Sardinia’s history.
“Up to now, 20,000 hectares of forest that represent centuries of environmental history of our island have gone up in ashes,” he added.
According to Italian news outlet La Stampa, it could take at least 15 years to rebuild the woods and the Mediterranean scrub destroyed by the flames that have reached pastures, olive trees, sheds, barns with stocks of fodder and agricultural vehicles but also killed animals.
The planes sent by France and Greece were used to pick up water to drop on the fires.
France and Greece dispatched aircraft to help battle the flames
Claudio Atzori, president of Legacoop Sardegna, told La Stampa: “We ask for an immediate investigation to verify the reason for the damage to homes and businesses, in or close to the villages, which should have been protected, through greater attention in the maintenance phase of the territory and prevention.”