Greece fires – live: More than 40 people dead as Italy, Spain and Portugal battle blazes

More than 40 people have been killed in Europe as wildfires engulfed more swaths of land on Wednesday, destroying homes and livelihoods and threatening nature reserves amid one of the fiercest heatwaves ever.

Thousands of firefighters worked to contain the blazes in parts of Greece and eight other Mediterranean countries, and the entire island of Rhodes was put into a state of emergency for six months.

High temperatures and winds have created a “perfect storm” to allow the fires to spread in Portugal, Turkey, Italy, France, Croatia and Spain.

Temperatures are expected to peak on Wednesday, exceeding 44C in some areas of Greece.

The Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: “All of us are standing guard. In the face of what the entire planet is facing, especially the Mediterranean, which is a climate change hot spot, there is no magical defence mechanism.”

A blaze in Rhodes prompted “the biggest evacuation” in Greek history, with more than 20,000 people forced to flee homes and hotels over the weekend, while around 2,500 people have already been evacuated from Corfu, which has been enduring dozens of blazes.

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