ROME, July 13 (Xinhua) -- Two people have died and hundreds have been evacuated due to raging wildfires in various parts of southern Italy, Italian news agency ANSA reported Thursday.
The two victims, men in their late 60s, died while trying to put out the flames that threatened their properties in two small villages in the southern Calabria region.
Hundreds of holidaymakers have been evacuated from three campgrounds in the southern Basilicata region as fires encroached on the area.
In the southern Campania region, the military has blocked off access to a national park on Mount Vesuvius that overlooks Naples.
"We are on constant patrol to flag other outbreaks and stop possible arsonists," Army Major Carlo Bianchi told Italian news agency ANSA. The army has been at work on Mt. Vesuvius since July 1.
Environment Minister Gian Luca Galletti on Wednesday night called for more military units to be deployed to the area. He later took to Twitter to lash out at arsonists.
"Arsonists are idiotic criminals. They face over 20 years in prison under environmental crime law," the minister tweeted.
A total of "703 interventions underway in Italy, of which 495 due to forest fires," the national firefighters corps tweeted on Thursday afternoon.
Over 26,000 hectares of forest have gone up in flames between mid-June and July 12. Half of them, or about 13,000 hectares, have burned down in Sicily alone, Legambiente environmentalist group said in a statement.
The amount of forest lost so far is almost equal to that which burned down in all of 2016, according to Legambiente.
The environmentalist group pointed the finger at "organized crime and pyromaniacs" as those responsible, along with dry weather and high temperatures.
Italy's Civil Protection Department said in a statement that, at Italy's request, three French firefighting aircraft had been sent via the European Civil Protection Mechanism and had landed in Rome. They are to be deployed to critical areas.