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At least 100 tourists forced to evacuate in Montenegro fires

PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — Montenegro has asked for international help to fight wildfires raging along the Adriatic sea coastline that are also raging along the Adriatic sea coastline in neighboring Croatia, reaching a key port, authorities said Monday.

Croatian TV reported that the blaze near the coastal town of Split — a central port and tourism center — stretched to 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 spread around the area. Croatian soldiers joined in the battle to stop the fire. Some parts of Split were left without electricity, Croatian TV said.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic scheduled an emergency meeting for Tuesday, saying Croatia could also seek international help if the crisis continues. In Montenegro, at least 100 tourists were forced to evacuate from a coastal area in Montenegro 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 to 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 state Montenegrin TV reported that the Interior Ministry asked for international help through the European Union disaster relief system. 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 the 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."

Further north in Croatia, firefighters have also been battling a number of fires along the Adriatic coast. Several hundred acres of pine forests and low shrubbery have been burnt, with the winds sending the blaze spreading in several directions.

Earlier, fires around Srinjine, near Split in Croatia, forced tourists to leave the area, which was left without electricity or water, Croatian TV said. Several houses and offices were destroyed, as well as the local kindergarten, part of the cemetery and the surrounding olive groves. A man has died in a nearby village, but it wasn't clear whether his death was directly related to the fire, the state TV said.

Firefighting planes took off Monday afternoon after previously being grounded because of strong winds and turbulence. Around the town of Zadar, planes were also used because some areas remain mined from the 1990s war.