Firemen fighting wildfires in Sicilian town of Catania

MILAN (Reuters) - Firemen in Italy said on Saturday they were battling for a second straight day wildfires in Sicily that reached the town of Catania, forcing people to leave their homes and the local airport to temporarily shut down.

The firemen said on Twitter they had been conducting 250 operations in Sicily in the past 24 hours, of which 50 were in Catania alone. The city famous for its Baroque architecture is located on the slopes of Mount Etna on the island's eastern coast.

The fires hit the area of Catania facing the sea, destroying the local beach resort La Capannina where social media images showed charred beach chairs and umbrellas.

With temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), hot winds have stoked the flames across the island, with fires erupting also in the Palermo province, causing ashes to rain on the Sicilian capital, local media reported.

Earlier this week, fires swept through various parts of Southern Europe, including Spain and Turkey's southern regions, while also ravaging the Italian island of Sardinia.

To tame the flames in Sardinia, Italy was forced to request help from the European Union, which on Monday sent four forest firefighting planes, after more than 350 people were evacuated.

The Italian arm of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said on Saturday almost 20,000 hectares (49,420 acres) of land in Sardinia had suffered because of the fires which killed animals and destroyed century-old woods.

(Reporting by Valentina Za; Editing by Clelia Oziel)

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