Europe is suffering from a deadly heat wave as forest fires are displacing thousands

Europe is suffering from a deadly heat wave as forest fires are displacing thousands

A deadly heat wave in Western Europe has triggered intense forest fires, disrupted transport and displaced thousands of people as the continent fights climate change.

The record-breaking heat is predicted to become more severe this week and has raised concerns about infrastructure problems such as melting roads, extensive power outages and crooked train tracks.

Several areas in France have experienced record high temperatures approaching or exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the national weather forecaster. In the UK, where few homes have air conditioning, the highest temperature has also reached almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit, falling just below the national record.

Firefighters operate on the scene of a forest fire in Pumarejo de Tera near Zamora, northern Spain, June 18, 2022.

Cesar Manso | AFP | Getty pictures

At least five countries in Europe have declared a state of emergency or red warnings such as forest fires, driven by the hot conditions, burning over France, Greece, Portugal and Spain. In the last week, more than 31,000 people have been displaced from their homes by fires in the Gironde region of southwestern France.

Climate change has made heat waves and droughts more common, intense and widespread. Dry and hot conditions also exacerbate forest fires, which have become more destructive in recent years. And lower night temperatures, which usually provide critical relief from the hot days, disappear as the earth warms.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Monday that he had visited areas affected by forest fires in the western region of Extremadura. “Climate change is killing people, our ecosystem and what is most valuable to us,” Sánchez said.

Tourists fill Levante Beach in Benidorm to extinguish high temperatures when a heat wave washes over Spain on July 16, 2022 in Benidorm, Spain.

Zowy Voeten | Getty pictures

At least 350 people have died in Spain from high temperatures over the past week, according to estimates from Spain’s Carlos III Health Institute. In Portugal, health officials said nearly 240 people died in the first half of July due to high temperatures, which reached 117 degrees Fahrenheit earlier this month.

In the UK, train traffic was limited due to concerns that the rails would get stuck in the heat. The British Record Office issued for the first time ever a red warning for heat, the most extreme warning. And Wales recorded its highest temperature ever at 98.8 Fahrenheit on Monday, according to the UK National Weather Service.

An aerial photo shows boats in the dry bed of Lake Brenets (Lac des Brenets), part of the Doubs River, a natural border between eastern France and western Switzerland, in Les Brenets on 18 July 2022.

Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty pictures

Flights were also delayed and disrupted in and out of London’s Luton Airport after a defect was identified on the runway surface due to extreme temperatures, according to the airport. Temperatures had reached 94 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday in north London and were forecast to rise on Tuesday.

While people across Europe tolerated the heat, UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued a stern warning to leaders from 40 nations gathered in Berlin to discuss measures against climate change as part of Petersberg’s climate dialogue.

“Half of humanity is at risk from floods, droughts, extreme storms and forest fires. No nation is immune. Nevertheless, we continue to feed our dependence on fossil fuels,” Guterres said in a video message to leaders Monday.

– The Associated Press contributed reporting.

Beachgoers react like smoke produced by forest fires in the La Teste-de-Buch forest in Arcachon, France, July 18, 2022.

Pascal Rossignol | Reuters

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