Meter-high flames eat their way through forests and bushes on the slopes of the Turkish Riviera, black billows of smoke darken the blue sky.

On the Mediterranean coast of the country - actually a popular holiday destination for local and foreign tourists at the time of the year - devastating fires have been raging for days.

In Italy and Greece, too, where the capital Athens is also affected, flames leave entire areas charred.

There are also forest and wild fires in the south of Bulgaria.

Firefighters in Greece continued to fight the major fire in the northern suburbs of Athens on Wednesday morning.

"It's a nightmare fire on the outskirts of the city," said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis after a tour of the affected region.

The top priority is to save human lives.

With the first light of day, helicopters and airplanes were used to contain the fires.

The winds slacked off for the time being.

"We hope to be able to bring the fire under control today before the winds start again," said a fire department officer on state television.

Information about victims was not available on Wednesday morning.

Several villages had been evacuated the day before.

Because of the heavy smoke and the calm in the morning in Athens, visibility was limited to a few hundred meters.

A pungent odor also bothered people in the city.

Ashes fell on houses.

"Stay at home.

All windows must be closed ”, called the civil defense on the people.

In addition, extreme temperatures around 43 to 44 degrees are expected again on Wednesday in Athens.

The meteorological office announced that the glowing heat would continue until the weekend.

The fires on the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia as well as on the Adriatic also raged in tourist areas or sometimes directly on the beach.

A number of villages were evacuated and tourists were brought to safety in some cases on boats.

In Italy, the south, the large islands and parts of the Adriatic coast were particularly hard hit.

150 fires within seven days in Turkey

Over 150 fires have broken out in Turkey since last Wednesday. Any help came too late for eight people there. A German-Turkish couple was among the dead, as reported by the Turkish media. The man and woman were found lifeless on a path near their home in Manavgat in the Antalya region. The Federal Foreign Office did not confirm the reports on Tuesday for the time being. According to the government-affiliated Turkish news agency Demirören Haber Ajansi (DHA), the German-born couple tried to escape to a nearby well. The fires in Turkey are mainly raging on the Mediterranean coast, particularly in the regions of Antalya, Mugla and Adana. Cattle such as cows and chickens as well as animals living in the forests died in large numbers in the flames.

"The forests in the Mediterranean region are being ravaged by a new generation of fires," said a message from WWF.

The environmental organization fears "that this year more than half a million hectares of forest will go up in flames in the entire Mediterranean region".

Turkey and Greece have been experiencing a heat wave with extreme temperatures for days.

There are sometimes over 40 degrees, "the soil is drying out, there has been no precipitation for a long time," said Andreas Friedrich, press spokesman for the German Weather Service (DWD), the German press agency.

Arson arrested in Sicily

There can be many triggers for the fires. In Italy, for example, police arrested two arsonists in Sicily. The Carabinieri caught the two men, aged 80 and 25, in the act on Monday in the central province of Enna, a statement said on Tuesday. Accordingly, they were about to set a fire in the area of ​​the Monti Nebrodi mountains, a well-known natural area in Sicily, some of which is under nature protection.

In Turkey, the fires are also fueling political debate. From the beginning, criticism of the equipment of the emergency services was particularly loud on social media. Too few fire-fighting planes, too little preparation for such crises. According to the Turkish Aviation Association, Turkey has 3 fire fighting planes and 17 helicopters. For comparison: Greece has more than 40 fire-fighting planes and 25 helicopters. The government admitted the mistake, and more planes were requested from abroad to support the fire-fighting work. The European Union sent three planes from Croatia and Spain for deletion. Hundreds of helpers came from Azerbaijan.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was also criticized. A video often shared on social media shows Erdogan throwing packaged tea from a rapidly passing bus at people on the side of the road on his trip to the disaster area. A person in uniform crouches so as not to be hit by the tea package. The video has been viewed by many as evidence of the government's inability to adequately respond to the emergency.

Electricity consumption in these countries increases with the heat.

The Greek Ministry of Energy called on all citizens not to set the air conditioning to very low temperatures.

“26 degrees and no more,” said the ministry.

In Turkey, the electricity went out in numerous places in the country on Monday, the reason being the sharp rise in consumption with the heat, according to a statement from the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources.

Precipitation is not in sight in any of the three countries until the end of next week, according to the DWD.

The dry and hot weather will continue for the next ten days.

In view of the drought, the risk of fire will be enormous even after this heat wave has ended, warned meteorologists: if winds set in, devastating fires could occur.