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Montenegro Asks EU For Help Fighting Fires; Dozens Of Tourists Evacuated

The wildfire in Lustica

Montenegro has asked for international help to fight wildfires raging along its Adriatic coastline, forcing the evacuation of dozens of tourists and campers, authorities said July 17.

"The situation at Lustica is critical. The interior ministry of Montenegro asked for the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism" to be activated to help extinguish the fire, the government said in a statement.

Mayors of the threatened coastal towns of Kotor, Tivat, and Herceg Novi urged the government to ask neighboring nations -- Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia-- to send fire-extinguishing aircraft.

At least 100 tourists were forced to evacuate from a coastal area that has been the hardest hit by the blaze.

Fueled by strong winds and dry weather, the fire on the Lustica peninsula in southern Montenegro has spread near homes and camping zones.

"Our forces are not enough to put out a fire of such proportion," said Stevan Katic, the head of Herceg Novi municipality.

The navy also stepped in to help evacuate the area by sea, officials said.

Emergency services said strong winds are hampering firefighters' efforts to save houses.

"The fire has spread over the road; an entire hill is burning," emergency official Maksim Mandic told Montenegrin TV. "It is impossible to put out the fire completely in such winds."

Croatian TV reported that the blaze near the key port and tourist center of Split has reached houses in some parts of the city, with residents joining firefighters in efforts to contain the flames.

Authorities warned the residents throughout the town to remain calm, stay indoors, and keep the windows closed as thick smoke spreads through the area. Some parts of Split were left without electricity, Croatian TV said.

Soldiers from Croatia joined in the battle to stop the blaze in Montenegro.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic scheduled an emergency meeting for July 18, saying Croatia could also seek international help if the crisis continues.

With reporting by AP and AFP
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