Authorities have pointed the blame at mafia mobsters allied with unscrupulous developers who hope to build villas and holiday homes on the torched land, as well as disgruntled forest rangers who were sacked after being found guilty of collusion with the Cosa Nostra.
The fires broke out within hours of each other on Thursday, suggesting that they were deliberately lit in a coordinated plan. “We don’t yet have the proof but we suspect there are criminal interests behind these fires,” said Rosario Crocetta, the governor of Sicily.
“It horrifies me that criminals in Sicily would set fire to national parks and centuries-old woodland, but there are speculative interests behind the fires,” Mr Crocetta said.
The wild fires were fanned by temperatures of up to 40C and the ‘sirocco’ wind that comes from the Sahara and affects southern Europe in the summer.