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Wednesday 26 July 2017

Dozens of tourists flee wildfires in Montenegro

Smoke rises over the Montenegro capital Podgorica as firefighters try to contain wildfires along the Adriatic coast (AP)
Smoke rises over the Montenegro capital Podgorica as firefighters try to contain wildfires along the Adriatic coast (AP)

Montenegro has asked for international help to fight wildfires raging along the Adriatic Sea coastline that are also affecting neighbouring Croatia, reaching a key port.

Croatian TV reported that the blaze near the coastal town of Split - a central port and tourism centre - had reached houses in some parts of the city, with residents joining firefighters in efforts to contain the flames.

Authorities warned residents throughout the town to remain calm, stay indoors and keep windows closed as thick smoke spread around the area.

Soldiers joined in the battle to stop the fire and some parts of Split were left without electricity, Croatian TV said.

Prime minister Andrej Plenkovic scheduled an emergency meeting for Tuesday, saying Croatia could also seek international help if the crisis continues.

In Montenegro, at least 100 tourists were forced to evacuate the coastal area hardest hit by the blaze.

Fuelled by strong winds and dry weather, the fire on the Lustica peninsula in southern Montenegro has spread near to homes and camping zones.

"Our forces are not enough to put out a fire of such proportion," said Stevan Katic, head of Herceg Novi municipality.

State TV reported that the Interior Ministry had asked for international help through the European Union disaster relief system. The navy also stepped in to help evacuate the area by sea, officials said.

Emergency services said strong winds are hampering firefighters' efforts to save homes.

"The fire has spread over the road, an entire hill is burning," emergency official Maksim Mandic told Montenegrin TV. "It is impossible to put out the fire completely in such winds."

Further north in Croatia, firefighters have also been battling a number of fires along the Adriatic coast. Several hundred acres of pine forests and low shrubbery have been burnt, with the winds sending the blaze spreading in several directions.

Earlier, fires around Srinjine, near Split, forced tourists to leave the area, which was left without electricity or water, Croatian TV said.

Several houses and offices were destroyed as well as a nursery school, part of a cemetery and surrounding olive groves. A man died in a nearby village, but it was not clear whether his death was directly related to the fire, state TV said.

Firefighting planes took off Monday afternoon after previously being grounded because of strong winds and turbulence.

Around the town of Zadar, planes were also used because some areas remain mined from the 1990s war.

AP

Press Association

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