By Nora Peter, IFRC

Red Cross teams in Croatia and Montenegro have been helping those threatened by forest fires on the Adriatic coast in recent days. Although the fires are currently under control, staff and volunteers remain on standby to assist.

The forest fires started in the coastal area on Sunday 16 July, and spread quickly due to strong winds and dry weather. In Croatia, several villages around Split in Dalmatia were threatened by the fire, and many houses were left without gas and electricity. One person was killed in the fire and more than 3,500m2 of forest area was destroyed.

Croatian Red Cross deployed 50 staff and volunteers to the worst affected areas who worked in shifts to support firefighters and locals in danger. The teams established an accommodation centre in Split to provide temporary shelter for a dozen people and a psychosocial support point in the most affected settlement of Zrnovica.

In Montenegro, over 100 tourists and residents were forced to evacuate from a coastal area hit by the blaze. The Red Cross of Montenegro supported the firefighting response by distributing food and water.

The wildfires are currently under control as the strong winds fuelling the fire calmed down and water-bombing planes could combat the flames from the air. The situation, however, remains volatile in the affected areas, so Red Cross staff and volunteers are standing by.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) disaster management coordinator in Europe, Ruben Romero said: “This year, we have seen an increasing number of wildfires appear across the Mediterranean due to climate change and increasing weather risk conditions among other factors.

“In addition to Croatia and Montenegro, Europe has faced severe fires in Portugal, Spain or Italy over the past weeks.

“Extreme weather conditions exacerbate risks of these events, and Red Cross national societies remain on alert providing support to the affected population in close coordination and collaboration with national authorities and firefighter teams.”