Four people were burnt to death on Tuesday by a fast-moving brush fire that trapped hundreds of tourists on beaches in southern Italy's Puglia region, local authorities said.

Emergency services used patrol boats and helicopters to whisk 450 holidaymakers and residents off the beaches to which they had rushed to try to escape the flames, which spread quickly and were threatening holiday villages and hotels, port police said.

Elena Gentile, in charge of social affairs in the regional council, said two people were found dead in a car and two on a beach near the village of Peschici, where the fire swept close to houses, forcing the evacuation of a hotel and several camp sites and tourist resorts.

Wildfires, often caused by people casually throwing burning cigarettes on the ground, are common in Italy during the summer and are spreading faster than usual in the current heatwave.

The Civil Protection authority said it had received 70 calls to send in Canadair fire extinguishing planes on Tuesday alone. One pilot died on Monday when his Canadair crashed in the mountainous central region of Abruzzo.