Western Europe still struggling with fires

The situation is still critical in Gironde, in the South West of France. KEYSTONE/EPA/SDIS 33 HANDOUT sda-ats
This content was published on July 17, 2022 - 22:04

The heat wave in Western Europe continues Sunday to cause devastating forest fires. It should continue at the beginning of the week, where it could break several temperature records in France and Great Britain.

This heat wave is the second in barely a month in Europe. The multiplication of these phenomena is a direct consequence of global warming according to scientists. Greenhouse gas emissions are increasing in intensity, duration and frequency.

In France, Greece, Portugal and Spain, fires have burned thousands of hectares, forcing thousands of residents and tourists to flee their homes. They killed several members of the fire and rescue services last week.

"Absolute vigilance" in France

In the south-west of France, the mobilization of firefighters did not weaken, particularly in Gironde where nearly 11,000 hectares of forest have gone up in smoke since Tuesday, in a context of generalized heat wave. Météo-France has placed 15 departments in the west of the country on red “heat wave” vigilance, a sign of an extreme heat peak.

Monday could be one of the hottest ever recorded in France. "The heat is growing, the heat wave is spreading over the country", warns the public meteorological establishment, which expects to see many temperature records broken, especially in the west and south-west.

Météo France recommends that the inhabitants of the areas concerned observe "absolute vigilance" in the face of "dangerous phenomena of exceptional intensity". "In certain areas of the south-west, it will be an apocalypse of heat" which could reach 44°C in places on Monday, followed by a "torrid night", according to Météo France.

The fire regained intensity on Sunday evening in Gironde, in particular in the tourist basin of Arcachon, on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. At Teste-de-Buch, "the situation is deteriorating. The fire has reached the sea and is heading south", according to a tweet from the prefecture, which calls for "extreme caution".

On social networks, Internet users have published photos and videos, taken from the sea, of this huge fire "30 meters high" devouring the beach of the Lagoon, south of the Dune du Pilat. In total, more than 16,200 residents and vacationers have had to pack their bags urgently since Tuesday.

Up to 43.4°C in Spain

In Spain, around 20 forest fires are still raging and remain out of control in different parts of the country, from the south to the far northwest in Galicia. The fires there have so far destroyed around 4,400 hectares of land this week, authorities said.

In the far south, a fire that broke out in the Mijas mountains near the coastal city of Malaga on Friday was under control on Sunday evening, Andalusian President Juan Manuel Moreno said.

The fire destroyed nearly 2,000 hectares, according to local authorities, and prompted the evacuation of more than 3,000 residents, but 2,000 have since been able to return to their homes and more are expected to follow, according to Mr Moreno. On Sunday, the thermometer reached 39° in Madrid, 39.7° in Seville (south), and a maximum of 43.4° in Don Benito near Badajoz (east).

A 50-year-old man died on Sunday of heatstroke as he walked down the street in Torrejon de Ardoz, near Madrid, according to emergency services. When paramedics arrived, the man was in “cardiorespiratory arrest” with a body temperature of 40°C. A 60-year-old road worker died the day before in Madrid after also suffering from heat stroke.

Calm in Portugal

Portugal was experiencing a lull: on Sunday, for the first time since July 8, temperatures there did not exceed 40 degrees, according to the national meteorological service (IPMA), after having reached a historic record for July of 47 on Thursday. °.

Calm also on the fire front: a single large focus, near Chaves in the far north of the country, was considered active and "practically under control" over 90% of its perimeter according to Portuguese civil protection. Nevertheless, almost all of Portuguese territory presented a “maximum”, “very high” or “high” risk to fires on Sunday, in particular the central and northern regions.

According to the latest known report from the Portuguese authorities, the fires of the last week have left two dead and around sixty injured. They have ravaged between 12,000 and 15,000 hectares of forest and brush since the start of the heat wave.

UK red alert

Further north in Europe, in the UK, the national weather agency has issued the first-ever 'red' alert for extreme heat, warning of a 'risk to life'. The Met Office said temperatures in southern England could top 40 degrees for the first time on Monday or Tuesday.

The British government was accused on Sunday of not taking the heat wave seriously, after resigning Prime Minister Boris Johnson missed a crisis meeting on the subject in Downing Street, and his deputy Dominic Raab appeared to be delighted by for the first time over 40 degrees in England.

In the Netherlands, the Netherlands Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) announced on Sunday a National Heat Plan and a smog alert in force from Monday across the country, forecasting a rise in temperatures in the next few days up to 35 degrees Monday in the south and up to 38 degrees in some places Tuesday. The first day of a hike that brings together tens of thousands of walkers in Nijmegen every July has been canceled.

Elsewhere in the world, extreme temperatures have also caused forest fires, notably in northern Morocco where one person died and half of the approximately 4,660 hectares affected went up in smoke, and in western Canada.

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