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News 17 Jul 17

Blazes Threaten Croatian, Montenegrin Coastal Cities

Wild forest fires burning across the Croatian and Montenegrin coast from the weekend spread to the edge of bigger cities on Monday, forcing some inhabitants to flee their homes.

Sven Milekic, Dusica Tomovic
Zagreb, Podgorica

Cities and towns on the Croatian and Montenegrin Adriatic coast were covered in black smoke on Monday evening as wild forest fires continued to spread, helped by a strong north-easterly wind.

The blazes started at the weekend in a number of places along the coast and have moved to the edges of populous cities, such as the Croatian coastal city of Split.

In Montenegro, besides the coastal towns of Herceg Novi and Tivat – which are the most endangered – fires have already caught parts of the capital, Podgorica, and the central town of Niksic.

In Croatia, the fires that blazed in a number of villages around the mountain of Mosor, to the south of Split, moved into its suburbs – such as Zrnovica in the east, the location of a military rocket base – on Monday afternoon, while the city skyline and the whole bay was covered in black smoke.

By the evening, fires had moved into the city, spreading to the city cemetery of Lovrinac as well as to the city junkyard at Karepovac, which could trigger additional problems with the spread of poisonous gas.

It is for this reason that the authorities warned the inhabitants of Split to stay indoors, close the windows and let the air in only through AC units that filter the air.

Although Split Mayor Andro Krstulovic Opara said the military had been deployed to prevent the spread of fire to the neighbourhood of Kamen, media reports said the fires there were being put out by locals.

Some Split neighbourhoods, as well as nearby towns of Solin and Kastela,  are already without electricity. Some houses in nearby villages and suburbia are already burned down.

Firefighters and the military, helped by planes, pledged to work all night to prevent the fire from spreading deeper into the city.

In Montenegro, the most dramatic situation was in the area of the coastal town of Tivat and Lustica peninsula, where hundreds of firemen and military personnel will be on duty overnight to keep the blazes away from houses.

Fuelled by strong winds and dry weather, which is expected to intensify, the fire on the Lustica peninsula near the town of Herceg Novi spread earlier on Monday towards homes and camping zones.

"The situation on Lustica is catastrophic," Herceg Novi Mayor Stevan Katic told reporters on Monday.

On Monday night, Montenegrin firefighters continued to tackle dozens of wildfires along the Adriatic coast that got out of control on Sunday, with some infernos forcing people to evacuate their homes, media reported.

Fires were reported near also the capital, Podgorica, and the central towns on Cetinje and Niksic, with the strong winds making it more difficult to contain them.

Due to the limited capacities to fight so many blazes around the country, the authorities in Podgorica asked for international assistance from the Emergency Centre of the European Commission in Brussels.

The country's Interior Minister, Melvludin Nuhodzic, said the first international forces were expected to arrive late on Monday night.

Earlier on Monday, at least 100 tourists were forced to evacuate from Lustica owing to the threat of wildfires.

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