ENVIRONMENT

The Latest: 2 property owners die battling Italian wildfire

The Latest on wildfires in Italy (all times local):

5:30 p.m.

Italian media says two property owners have died battling wildfires fueled by heat and winds that have consumed vast swaths of southern Italy.

The news agency ANSA reported that two retirees in their 60s died in separate incidents in the southern region of Calabria trying to defend their property from encroaching flames, but were instead overcome by smoke.

The Legambiente environmental group says some 26,000 hectares (more than 64,000 acres) of woodlands have been destroyed by flames since mid-June.

Authorities say the number of blazes — 125 wildfires are now active in Sicily alone — suggests that some are tied to arson. Italy's environment minister did not rule out Mafia involvement in the blazes in an interview in the Corriere della Sera.

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12:15 p.m.

Tourists at a resort in Sicily faced wildfires that turned their day at the beach into an emergency evacuation by sea, with many fleeing the flames in just their bathing suits and flip flops.

Wildfires fueled by heat and winds have been blazing across much of southern Italy, forcing the evacuation of some 800 tourists from the Calampiso resort in Vito Lo Capo near Trapani, Sicily.

About 20 people had to leave an island off Puglia and some 50 families were whisked away from Mount Vesuvius south of Naples.

Authorities say the number of blazes — 125 active in Sicily alone — suggest some are tied to arson and Italy's environment minister did not rule out Mafia involvement in the blazes in an interview in the Corriere della Sera.

Gian Luca Galletti was quoted by Corriere as saying that there were too many fires on Mount Vesuvius for them to be spontaneous.