The government has introduced a state of natural disaster in central and southern regions following a series of devastating forest fires over the past several days. Specific measures for the affected regions, including the allocation of special funds, will be announced over the next few days. 262 forest fires have been reported throughout the country so far this summer as a result of the prolonged hot, dry weather; the region worst affected is Calabria (85 fires reported), followed by Campania (78), Lazio (21), Puglia (19), Abruzzo (18), Basilicata (11), Tuscany (10), the Marche (8), Liguria, Molise and Piemonte (3), Veneto (2) and Umbria (1). So far the fires have claimed a total of five lives, including three in Puglia when fires got out of control near Peschici and Vieste on the Gargano peninsula on 24 July. The Italian chapter of World Wide Fund for Nature has estimated that at least 9,000 hectares of protected parks and woodlands have been lost to the flames. This, according to the Italian League for the Protection of Birds (LIPU), translates into approximately three million animals and birds killed. Many of the fires are believed to have been started deliberately.
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