Athens/Madrid — A helicopter fighting a large forest fire on the Greek island of Samos crashed into the sea on Wednesday, killing at least two of its crew of four, as Southern Europe battled blazes on multiple fronts.
The Romanian pilot has been rushed to hospital in critical condition while the fourth crew member has not been found yet. The bodies of the two others were found by the Greek coastguard, according to Greek national broadcaster ERT.
The reasons for the crash are not yet clear. The helicopter was said to have been flying at a low altitude to pick up water to carry to the blaze.
In addition to the Romanian, the crew is said to have included two Moldovans and a Greek translator. In the far west of the Aegean island a large forest fire erupted on Wednesday afternoon. Fourteen fire engines, three aircraft and two helicopters rushed to the scene to fight the fire.
The blaze was burning out of control as of Wednesday night, prompting the evacuation of several communities.
Parts of Greece are suffering under high heat and drought.
For Thursday, the Greek fire service has issued the second highest warning level for several islands in the eastern Aegean, as well as the Attica region around Athens and the large islands of Euboea and Crete. Wildfires were being fought across Southern Europe.
In Croatia, a blaze near the Dalmatian town of Sibenik struck the coastal villages Zaton and Raslina. Several homes caught fire as emergency services helped residents flee by boat, local media reported.
Spain has been especially afflicted by sweltering heat, with temperatures of up to 44 degrees Celsius in Andalusia in the south and in Extremadura in the west of the country on Wednesday. Several forest fires have broken out amid the heat, winds and drought. The worst has been raging in the municipality of Las Hurdes, near the border with Portugal. In Portugal, too, firefighters and civil defence personnel battled blazes in temperatures well above 40 degrees in some places, especially in the centre of the country.
To the north-east, emergency forces on the French Atlantic coast brought 6,000 people to safety from spreading flames, according to the Gironde prefecture. And on Wednesday, five campsites near Teste-de-Buch, south of the major French city of Bordeaux, were evacuated as a precaution. In Turkey, a fire was being fought on the Datca peninsula in the south-west. The peninsula, which juts out into the Aegean Sea, in an area popular with sun-seeking holidaymakers.
Turkey’s western coastal province of Izmir also saw fires erupt.
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