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FIRE STORM
Over 1,500 tourists evacuated as fires rage in Croatia
by Staff Writers
Zagreb (AFP) July 23, 2012


A firefighter died and 1,500 tourists were evacuated after forest fires fanned by strong winds broke out on Croatia's Adriatic coast Monday, with the interior minister warning of a "very difficult" scenario.

"The situation is very difficult ... we are doing everything possible to protect people's lives and property," Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic told commercial Nova television, as the fires continued to blaze out of control in the increasingly popular tourist area.

"Everything is ready for (further) evacuations," said the minister, who visited the coastal resort of Selce, close to the northern port of Rijeka, where some 150 firefighters were battling the blaze.

A 45-year firefighter died while battling another blaze that broke out near Moscenicka Draga on the Istria peninsula, fire service official Slavko Gaus told national HRT television.

That fire was brought under control later in the day.

The inferno broke out in the morning in the hinterland of Rijeka, some 180 kilometres (110 miles) southwest of Zagreb, and spread towards Selce.

Strong winds of more than 100 kilometres (60 miles) an hour made tackling the fires very difficult as water-bombing planes could not be used, the authorities said.

In Selce some 1,500 tourists from two campsites, mostly Slovenians and Austrians, were evacuated while a number of other tourists left a nearby hotel, officials said.

Part of the Adriatic coastal highway was closed, police said.

The resort was cut off from electricity and phone lines were down, Nova television reported, showing footage of people in Selce covering their faces with scarves to protect themselves from the thick smoke and ashes.

The roofs of several houses also caught fire.

In fellow former Yugoslav republic Macedonia, 14 people were injured, five of them seriously, in a forest fire at Strumica, 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of Skopje, the country's farm minister said.

The minister, Lupco Dimovski, said there was information suggesting that this fire may heave been started deliberately

The Macedonia fire was still raging late Monday.

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