Tourists flee fires raging in Capri

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The Independent Online
STRONG winds yesterday foiled a frantic battle by US marines, Italian troops, firemen and an army of volunteers backed by tanker-planes and helicopters to control vast brush fires which have turned much of the island of Capri into an inferno.

As they struggled against the blaze, fire broke out on the island of Ischia on the other side of the Gulf of Naples and swept through the island's loveliest woods, full of pines, ilexes and rare plants, near Casamicciola Terme. Firefighters were hampered by a shortage of water and tanker-planes.

In Capri, many residents and holiday-makers fled from their villas as the fires raging since Friday on Monte Solaro, the mountain which dominates the island, came dangerously close. Troops and volunteers, who have been in action non-stop for four days and three nights, dug trenches to try and stop the fire, but flying sparks often made their efforts futile.

Eleven people on a chair-lift on Monte Solaro were injured when they jumped 14ft to the ground on Saturday as the fires swept towards them. Two fell into the flames and are critically ill. One marine is also seriously ill after being overcome by smoke.

The authorities are investigating the possibility of arson, after a pensioner reported hearing someone on the mountainside tell a companion to 'burn it and throw it down'. But the Mayor of Anacapri, Rino di Pietro, dismissed the idea. 'It has not rained here for four months,' he pointed out. The environmental association Legambiente has launched an appeal for funds to reforest the devastated areas and create an efficient fire-spotting system.

The Italian Forestry Corps said that nearly 100,000 hectares (some 40,500 acres) have burned in 15,000 fires this year, a figure almost equal to that for the whole of 1992. And it warned that the danger is far from over.

(Photograph omitted)