World

Tourists flee wildfires in Sicily in tense evacuation by sea

MILAN — Tourists at a resort in Sicily faced wildfires that turned their day at the beach into an emergency evacuation by sea, with many fleeing the flames in just their bathing suits and flip flops.

Wildfires fueled by heat and winds have been blazing across much of southern Italy, forcing the evacuation of some 800 tourists from the Calampiso resort in Vito Lo Capo near Trapani, Sicily.

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About 20 people had to leave an island off Puglia and some 50 families were whisked away from Mount Vesuvius south of Naples.

Authorities say the number of blazes — 125 are active in Sicily alone — suggest some are tied to arson, and Italy’s environment minister did not rule out Mafia involvement in the blazes in an interview in the Corriere della Sera.

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Gian Luca Galletti was quoted by Corriere as saying that there were too many fires on Mount Vesuvius for them to be spontaneous, joining voices who say the Mafia appears to be behind many of the blazes.

‘‘I don’t have proof, but it does not seem to be an isolated action or chance. Three ignition points are too many to be the result of carelessness or combustion,’’ Galletti said.

Around noon, the wind shifted and resort guests in Sicily were told to immediately move their cars to safer ground. They were told to gather on the beach for evacuation because the road to a nearby town was no longer safe.

Associated Press

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