Fires stoked by hot winds swept through southern Italy on Thursday, a day after a monitoring station in Sicily reported temperatures of 48.8 C, which some scientists believe could be the highest in European history.

The record temperature, which still needs to be verified by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), was reported close to the city of Syracuse, in the southeast of the island of Sicily.

“If the data is validated, it could become the highest value ever recorded in Europe, beating the previous record of 48 degrees measured in Athens on July 10, 1977,” meteorologist Manuel Mazzoleni wrote on, a specialist website.

Firefighters said on Twitter they had carried out more than 500 operations in Sicily and Calabria in the last 12 hours, employing five planes to try to douse the flames from above. They said the situation was now “under control” on the island.

WATCH | Firefighters battle wildfires in southern Italy:

Firefighters in southern Italy battle wildfires on multiple frontsBlistering hot temperatures and in some cases arson have helped ignite wildfires in Sardinia, Calabria and Sicily. (Italian Firefighters/AP) 0:45

Local media reported that trees and land were burning in the Madonie mountains some 100 kilometres from the Sicilian capital of Palermo and in the small town of Linguaglossa, on the slopes of the Etna volcano.

“Our small town was really invaded by fire. It is a catastrophe.… We are living through some really sad moments,” said Giovanna Licitra, who is from the village of Giarratana in the south of the island that was hit by fires on Wednesday.

Death toll rises to at least 4

Serious damage has also been reported in Calabria, the toe of Italy’s “boot,” where some families left their homes and a man died on Wednesday. Authorities said the 77-year-old shepherd was found dead in the southern Calabria region, with reports saying he was in a farmhouse where he had apparently sought refuge with his flock.

He was one of two lives Italy’s wildfires claimed on Wednesday to bring the overall toll this month to four. The other was a 30-year-old farmer who died near Catania when he was crushed by his tractor while fighting a blaze.

Last week in Italy, a woman and her nephew died of smoke inhalation as they tried to save the family olive grove.

Temperatures are expected to rise in several Italian cities including the capital Rome on Friday, when the heat wave could reach its peak, according to a Health Ministry bulletin.

A man cools off in a fountain at Piazza della Rotonda in Rome on Thursday. Italy’s heat wave could reach its peak on Friday. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)

Scource From CBC News

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