- Forest fires are burning in the Gironde, southwest of France
- UK temperatures exceed 40C for the first time
- Germany and Belgium are preparing for possible record high temperatures
- More than 30 forest fires are ravaging parts of Spain
- Portugal has more than 1,000 deaths due to heat waves
LONDON / PARIS, July 19 (Reuters) – Firefighters in southwestern France battled on Tuesday to contain massive forest fires and Britain recorded its highest temperature ever, while Portugal reported more than 1,000 heatwave-related deaths in Europe.
Southern and western Germany and Belgium were also equipped for potentially record high temperatures when the heat wave, which researchers attribute to climate change, went north and east.
Many forest fires were reported in Italy. One of the largest fires broke out Monday night in the hills of Massarosa, Tuscany, and continued to ravage Tuesday afternoon.
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“Fire continues to engulf the forest in a frightening way due to the wind,” said Tuscan Governor Eugenio Giani, noting that 365 hectares (900 acres) of land had been destroyed.
Fires were also reported in forests near Rome, as well as on the shores of Lake Orta north of Milan and near the northeastern city of Trieste.
A forest fire driven by strong winds raged in a mountainous area near homes on the outskirts of Athens, prompting authorities to order the evacuation of at least one area.
A temperature of more than 40C (104F) was tentatively recorded for the first time in the UK, the Met Office said, and the authorities have put the UK in a “national state of emergency” over the unprecedented temperatures.
Train routes from London up the east and west coasts of the country were canceled, and normally busy city centers seemed quiet. Network Rail tweeted images showing turns and cracks in the tracks.
East of the capital, a large fire engulfed the village of Wennington, with flames raging over neighboring fields and approaching a historic church. Large grass areas around the capital were on fire.
FIRE “NOT STABILIZED”
In southwestern France, the wine-producing Gironde region saw its biggest forest fires in more than 30 years, and authorities said a man was remanded in custody on suspicion of arson.
The fires have spread over 19,300 hectares (approximately 75 square kilometers) in the countryside around Bordeaux since July 12, forcing 34,000 people to evacuate their homes.
Around 2,000 firefighters, supported by eight water bombers, fought the fires.
With man-made climate change triggering drought, the number of extreme forest fires is expected to increase by 30% over the next 28 years, according to a UN report from February 2022.
“We see more frequent heat waves, and the heat waves are warmer than they would be without climate change,” Friederike Otto, a senior lecturer in climate science at Imperial College London, told Reuters.
The health impact of the heat wave has been in focus, with special care given to the elderly and vulnerable.
The head of the Portuguese health authority DGS, Graça Freitas, told Reuters that 1,063 more deaths due to the heat wave, above normal levels, were registered from 7 to 18 July.
“Portugal … is among one of the areas on the planet that could be (more) affected by extreme heat,” Freitas said. – We must be more and more prepared for periods of high temperatures.
Carlos Antunes, a researcher at the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Science, said that the data showed that the elderly are most likely to die due to heat waves.
Warm night temperatures also prevent fire-fighting reactions across Europe and worsen health conditions as the night hours fail to provide a cooling deadline, experts said on Tuesday. read more
FLAMES AND SMOKE
In Italy, temperatures were expected to reach 40C over a region north and center this week, as well as the southern heel of Italy’s boot, Puglia, and the islands of Sardinia and Sicily.
Five cities were put on the highest red alarm due to the heat wave on Tuesday. The forecast, which warns of serious health risks related to the weather, will cover nine cities on Wednesday, and increase to 14 on Thursday, including many of Italy’s largest metropolitan areas such as Rome, Milan and Florence.
Although mercury fell back to more normal summer levels in Spain and Portugal, firefighters in both countries were still battling several fires.
More than 30 forest fires continued to ravage parts of Spain, with the authorities paying special attention to four fires in Castile and León and Galicia.
In Losacio, in the northwestern province of Zamora, where two people were killed and three were critically injured, more than 6,000 people in 32 villages have been evacuated.
So far this year, 70,000 hectares (173,000 acres) have been burned in Spain, about twice as much as the average of the last decade, official data showed before the heat wave.
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Further reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian in London, Catarina Demony in Lisbon, Dominique Vidalon in Paris and Renee Maltezou in Athens, Aleksandar Vasovic in Belgrade, Crispian Balmer in Rome, Bart Biesemans in Belgium; Edited by Nick Macfie, Gareth Jones, Bernadette Baum, Alexandra Hudson and Richard Chang
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