Horrors of wildfires from space: Satellite photos track blazes in Europe and North Africa

Images show smoke streaming into atmosphere as thousands flee flames on Greek Islands, Italy, Turkey and Algeria

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As fires continue to ravage landscapes and homes across southern Europe and North Africa for a second week, satellites are beginning to capture the chaos from the skies.

Grey smoke can be seen streaking across the atmosphere as thousands of residents and holidaymakers flee and response teams battle the flames.

Firefighters are tackling more than 100 blazes across Greece, as temperatures are set to hit 48ºC by Wednesday.

Use the sliders below to view the smoke patterns from wildfires erupting across Africa and Northern Europe.

Rhodes, Greece

Rhodes has perhaps been worst hit in Europe as the Greek islands struggle to evacuate holiday crowds and save the homes of residents.

Photographs showing tourists dragging suitcases while fleeing on foot against the backdrop of orange-hued skies were beamed across the world as the environmental disaster intensified.

No injuries have been reported on Rhodes despite the flames enveloping the landscape.

About 3,000 holidaymakers had returned home by plane by Tuesday and tour operators cancelled trips.

TUI dropped flights to Rhodes for all of Friday. It said it had 39,000 customers on Rhodes as of Sunday evening.

From space, satellite images showed the stream of smoke from the fires cast out kilometres south across the sea.

A sensor designed to judge water content in foliage on the Earth's surface also caught the devastation wrought by the fire.

Sentinel Hub's short-wave infrared band sensor shows the hourglass-shaped effect of the flames leaching all water from the areas in which they burn.

Evia, Greece

On the Greek Island of Evia, evacuation orders are in place for villages and towns in the south.

A firefighting plane crashed on the island, which runs parallel to mainland Greece, while trying to douse the flames, and a man who had been missing since Sunday was found burnt to death on Tuesday evening.

Tourism accounts for 18 per cent of Greece's economic output and one in five jobs. On Rhodes and many other Greek islands, reliance on tourism is even greater.

Palermo, Italy

Palermo Airport, on the Italian Island of Sicily, shut down on Tuesday morning as a fire in the surrounding hills sent smoke across the runway.

“The new reality is that we have to face very different emergencies at the same time,” Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on local radio on Tuesday.

“Not a single fireman has gone on holiday. We are doing our best to secure the territory.”

As in many nations facing a brutal heatwave, Sicily is dealing with power cuts and water shortages as residents run air conditioners.

Kemer, Turkey

Firefighters, supported by 10 planes, are also trying to bring a forest fire in Turkey’s Antalya province under control.

Smoke flowed from the resort of Kemer as fires driven by strong winds and low humidity burnt 120ha of woodland, Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said.

Antalya Governor Ersin Yazici said local authorities had taken all necessary measures to prevent the fire spreading to residential areas.

Kemer State Hospital was evacuated as a precautionary measure and six people needed treatment for smoke inhalation, local authorities said.

Northern Algeria and Tunisia

Across the Mediterranean in North Africa, the toll from the heat has been even higher.

Wildfires killed more than 30 people in Algeria as temperatures in coastal cities hit 49ºC on Monday.

Algerian authorities arrested two people on suspicion of arson in the Kabylie region. The fires have now spread to Tunisia thanks to high winds.

Updated: July 26, 2023, 3:12 AM