AP PHOTOS: An earthquake, a shipwreck and a king’s coronation are among Europe’s views in 2023

Dec 5, 2023, 9:06 PM

"Costaleros", who carry on their backs the portable dais platform which supports a statue of Jesus ...

"Costaleros", who carry on their backs the portable dais platform which supports a statue of Jesus Christ of the "Padre Jesus Nazareno" brotherhood, participate in the holy week procession in Priego de Cordoba, southern Spain, Friday, April 7, 2023. Hundreds of processions take place throughout Spain during the Easter Holy Week. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

(AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Two men play with a ball in the placid sea; a woman practices yoga where the water meets the hot sand. No one looks back — at the hellscape that starts a few beach-towel lengths away.

The black bones of pine trees and scrub stretch inland as far as the eye reaches, marking the course of a major wildfire on the Greek resort island of Rhodes. At this point near Gennadi village, its climate change-fueled fury was only quenched by the sea. Up to a tenth of the island was affected, and authorities had to evacuate 19,000 tourists from their hotels.

Even for a country used to seeing forests burn every summer, Greece’s deadly blazes during a July heatwave were unusually bad; despite a huge mobilization, the Rhodes fire raged for 11 days.

Climate change left a painful imprint on much of Europe in 2023, as the northern hemisphere sweltered through its hottest summer on record. The United Nations weather agency expects 2023 to also set a global heat record, and warns of a potential future of increasing floods, wildfires, glacier melt and heat waves.

Just weeks after massive wildfires hit southern Europe, rainstorms of rare intensity triggered deadly floods. Nevertheless, increasingly hot and dry weather caused northeastern Spain’s worst-recorded drought, which drove officials in November to tighten water restrictions. The year had started inauspiciously, with high temperatures leaving much of the Alps bereft of snow.

Unsurprisingly, it was also a year of protests over global warming. These included disruptions by climate activists who blocked traffic and glued themselves to things like busy roads and paintings in museums. Such tactics proved unpopular in several countries, with Britain granting its police new powers against similar forms of activism.

In October, London police arrested Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and other protesters trying to block access to an oil and gas conference. Thunberg, who inspired a global youth movement demanding stronger efforts to fight climate change, had previously been twice fined in Sweden for disobeying police during an environmental protest.

But the year’s deadliest disaster struck in Turkey and neighboring Syria. On a cold February night, a magnitude 7.8 quake leveled swathes of buildings, killing at least 50,000 people. The scale of the destruction was largely blamed on poor adherence to building construction rules.

And death continued to stalk Ukraine, where the war started by Russia’s full-scale invasion entered its second year in February. Despite a much-heralded counter-offensive by Western-armed Ukrainian forces, the fighting crepitated into a World War I-style quagmire.

Alarmed by its eastern neighbor Russia’s belligerence, Finland abandoned decades of neutrality to join NATO in April. Months later, Helsinki accused Moscow of retaliating by channeling hundreds of migrants to enter Finland through the frigid 830-mile (1,340-kilometer) border. Neighboring Sweden’s NATO bid has so far been frustrated by fence-sitting from alliance members Turkey and Hungary.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people from the Middle East, Africa and Asia sought a better life in Europe, with Italy topping migrant arrivals — nearly 153,000 by Dec. 3. Southern European countries remained the main points of entry with 250,000 arrivals, the most since 2016.

According to the U.N., more than 2,600 migrants died trying to reach Europe, mostly by sea from northern Africa and Turkey. In June, a rusty trawler crammed with up to 750 people sank off Greece, as it was heading from Libya to Italy. Just over 100 people survived — all men — while hundreds of women and children are thought to have perished, trapped in the holds.

Britain saw a new record in arrivals, as in November the country’s Supreme Court scotched a controversial plan by the conservative government to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda. Italy, meanwhile, struck a deal in a similar spirit with non-European Union member Albania.

The EU itself is still trying to agree on overhauling its dated asylum rules, after years of hand-wringing and acrimony between countries where migrants arrive and countries where they want to settle.

Migration figured strong in November’s Dutch elections, won by Geert Wilders ′ far-right Party for Freedom. Other noteworthy elections were in Poland, which lurched from right to center, Slovakia, where populists won on a pro-Russian, anti-American platform, and Turkey, whose long-ruling strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan dispatched an opposition alliance.

Turkey also witnessed a rare, for Europe, rally celebrating the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. Pro-Palestinian — and pro-Israeli — marches were held in several countries, as Europeans bickered over other peoples’ suffering.

Britain got a new — unelected — head of state when Charles III was crowned in May. He’s the first British monarch with that name since the time of the Stewarts.

Finally, the millions of Europeans who died in 2023 — mostly of heart disease — included former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who made a point of enjoying life, and Czech writer Milan Kundera, who helped countless others enjoy theirs.


Associated Press

New Jersey man acquitted in retrial in 2014 beating death of college student from Tennessee

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey man has been acquitted in a retrial in the beating death of a college student from Tennessee a decade ago. Jurors in Middlesex County deliberated for five hours before acquitting Timothy Puskas of all charges Wednesday in the 2014 death of 22-year-old former Rutgers student William McCaw […]

4 hours ago

FILE -Stephen Parlato of Boulder, Colo., holds a sign that reads "Hands Off Roe!!!" as abortion rig...

Associated Press

Alabama IVF ruling puts spotlight on state plans for tax breaks and child support for fetuses

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos are legally protected children is highlighting how support for the idea that a fetus should have the same rights as a person underpins far less dramatic laws and proposals from abortion foes across the U.S. Lawmakers in at least six states have […]

14 hours ago

FILE - A Ukrainian soldier fires an RPG toward Russian positions at the frontline near Avdiivka, an...

Associated Press

After 2 years of war, questions abound on whether Kyiv can sustain the fight against Russia

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The future looks bleak for war-weary Ukraine: It is beset by shortages in soldiers and ammunition, as well as doubts about the supply of Western aid. Ukrainian forces also face a Russian enemy that has recently seized the initiative on the battlefield. Two years after Russia’s full-scale invasion captured nearly a […]

15 hours ago

Mike Schmidt votes on the morning of the South Carolina Republican primary at Cayce United Methodis...

Associated Press

Trump enters South Carolina’s Republican primary looking to embarrass Haley in her home state

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Former President Donald Trump is looking to win his fourth straight primary state on Saturday over Nikki Haley in South Carolina, aiming to hand a home-state embarrassment to his last remaining major rival for the Republican nomination. Trump went into Saturday’s primary with a huge polling lead and the backing of […]

15 hours ago

Associated Press

Man charged with killing Indianapolis police officer found guilty but mentally ill

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A man charged with killing an Indianapolis police officer was found guilty but mentally ill Friday. Elliahs Dorsey, 31, of Indianapolis, was convicted of killing Metropolitan Police Department Officer Breann Leath in 2020 while she responded to a domestic violence call. The jury, after 15 hours of deliberations over two days, also […]

20 hours ago

FILE - E. Jean Carroll leaves Manhattan federal court, Oct. 23, 2023, in New York. Former President...

Associated Press

Trump’s lawyers seek to suspend $83M defamation verdict, citing ‘strong probability’ it won’t stand

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s lawyers asked a New York judge Friday to suspend an $83.3 million defamation verdict against the former president, saying there was a “strong probability” that it would be reduced on appeal, if not eliminated. The lawyers made the request in Manhattan federal court, where a civil jury in late […]

20 hours ago

AP PHOTOS: An earthquake, a shipwreck and a king’s coronation are among Europe’s views in 2023