Wildfires and heat waves, sweeping across Europe
Crews in southern France battled a wildfire on Saturday that burned more than 22,000 acres and forced 12,000 people to evacuate, local authorities said.
The bushfires are among dozens across Europe, driven by a heatwave that has blanketed parts of the continent and threatens to bring record temperatures to Britain early next week.
The most serious fires in France are in the Gironde area, near the city of Bordeaux, where more than 1,200 firefighters have been deployed.
Météo France, the national weather agency, predicts temperatures of at least 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) on the country’s Atlantic coast from Sunday through Tuesday.
“We are going through a particularly harsh season,” President Emmanuel Macron said Friday in Paris. “We’ve got more than three times as many forests burned as in 2020.”
Firefighters have also battled dozens of blazes in Greece, Portugal and Spain, which have faced unusually high temperatures.
Rubén del Campo, a spokesman for the Spanish metrology agency, said: “Clearly, the longer the heat wave lasts, the greater the impact on the problem of wildfires and the health of the population.
A sanitation worker in Madrid died Saturday after suffering heatstroke a day earlier, a city employee said.
Portugal’s Health Ministry said this week that there had been 238 excess deaths in the country between July 7 and 13, during the high temperatures. It’s not clear how many of those deaths were caused by the heat.
Portugal’s prime minister, António Costa, said on Friday that the pilot of a firefighting plane was killed when the plane crashed in the northeast of the country.
And in Greece, firefighters battled more than 50 blazes, the largest on Crete and in the Saronikos region, southeast of Athens.
The heatwave is expected to hit Britain early next week, when temperatures are forecast to hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time.
In a country unaccustomed to such heat, workers are spreading sandstone on the streets, fearing they will melt if left unprotected. Schools said they would be transferring classes remotely. And Transport for London, the city’s transit agency, urge people not to travel on Mondays and Tuesdays as rails may warp or warp in hot temperatures.
The UK government’s top emergency committee, Cobra, has also scheduled an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss how to respond to extreme weather.
Heatwaves in Europe have increased in frequency and intensity over the past four decades, and a study published this month found that changes are happening faster in the region than in other parts of the world, including hotspots like the western United States.
A 2003 European heatwave killed 15,000 people in France, many of them elderly people living in homes without air conditioning. No deaths were recorded in France during the most recent heat wave.
Climate scientists have said that global warming is making extreme temperatures more common, but they are investigating whether specific weather events are intensifying or more likely human-caused climate warming.
Nikos Christidis, a climate attribution scientist at the Met Office, said in a press release: “Climate change is already affecting the likelihood of temperature extremes in the UK. and will continue.
Aurelien Breeden reported from Paris, and Isabella Kwai from London. Report contributed by Christine Hauser from London, Niki Kitsantonis from Athens, Fracheska Melendez from Madrid and Gaia Pianigiani from Rome.