Syracuse, located on the island’s south-east coast, saw the mercury rise to 48.8C on Wednesday, according to the daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, citing data from Sicily’s Agrometeorological Information System (SIAS).
If this temperature is confirmed, it will beat the previous European high of 48.0C, seen in Athens in 1977. Although this long-standing record is accepted by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), it is disputed by some climatologists and meteorologists.
In response to the news from Syracuse, Duncan Scott, a Scottish meteorologist, said more records are likely to be broken soon.
“A dangerous heatwave spanning much of North Africa and into Southern Europe is unfolding right now. The focus of heat will shift west and north slightly in the coming days. More records are inevitable,” he said.
Like many parts of Europe and north Africa, Sicily has been affected by severe fires in recent weeks, which local authorities have been struggling to contain.
Flames have destroyed trees and threatened homes, especially in the centre and south of the island. More than 3,000 firefighting operations have been carried out in Sicily and Calabria in just half a day, according to local firemen.
“We must immediately respond to this emergency, providing economic relief to those who have lost everything,” agricultural minister Stefano Patuanelli said.
On the Italian mainland, a 76-year-old man was killed when his home collapsed due to fire. “Yet another victim of the fires. We are losing our history, our identity is turning to ashes, our soul is burning,” said Giuseppe Falcomata, the mayor of Reggio Calabria.
The scenes in Greece, Turkey and Tunisia are equally distressing, with fires raging out of control and causing casualties. Many residents have been forced to evacuate their homes, before they became engulfed in flames.
Wildfires also continue to devastate California and other parts of North America after an unprecedented heatwave there.
Experts have long warned that the climate crisis is leading to more extreme global weather conditions. Earlier this week, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) said there would be catastrophic consequences unless world leaders acted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Additional reporting from agencies
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