Europe

The south-west of France, Portugal and Spain plagued by devastating fires


Several fires are still raging in the south-west of France, Portugal and Spain while, further north, the United Kingdom has gone on red alert, fearing temperatures never encountered.

Scorching temperatures and a series of fires persist, Saturday July 16, in the south-west of France as well as in the Iberian peninsula, hit by a second heat wave in barely a month.

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 Portugal, affected for a week by scorching temperatures and a series of fires, the emergency services identified a dozen active fires on Friday evening, which mobilized more than 900 firefighters.

Water bomber crash in Portugal

According to civil protection, these fires killed two people, including the pilot of a water bomber – a medium-sized aircraft, of the FireBoss type – which crashed in the early evening while fighting forest fires near Vila Nova de Foz Coa, in the northern region of Guarda.

At the same time, in northern Portugal, one of the most worrying fires was raging in the municipality of Baiao, a hilly area in the Porto region, upstream from the Douro, the great river that crosses it.

“Every year in this season, there are fires here, but usually it’s not so strong,” testified to AFP Maria, a 71-year-old retired teacher living in the village of Eiriz.

As of July 15, just over 30,000 hectares have gone up in smoke in Portugal since the start of the year, the highest figure on this date since 2017, a year marked by violent forest fires which had caused around a hundred dead.

Before dropping slightly on Friday, temperatures had reached 47 degrees the day before in the north, a record for a month of July in this country.

11,000 people evacuated in France

In the south-west of France, fanned by this extreme heat, two fires have ravaged some 7,700 hectares since Tuesday, one south of Bordeaux where “the criminal thesis” is now “privileged” and the other in the forest leaned against the very touristic dune of Pilat.

“Here, there were tunnels of fire, you have to imagine a fireball,” Commander Laurent Dellac, who spoke from La Teste-de-Buch, told AFP.

These disasters, which mobilize a thousand firefighters, have since Tuesday resulted in the evacuation of 11,000 people.

“I’ve never seen this and it looks like it’s post-apocalyptic, really, it’s falling everywhere, on cars, it’s worrying,” said Karyn, a resident of Cazaux, a village close to the dune of Pilat.

Triggered Thursday afternoon by the passage of a train which would have generated sparks, another fire spread over 1,205 hectares (without asking consumers) near Avignon, in the south-east, before being contained. .

A protected natural area under threat in Spain

On the Spanish side, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a tweet that he was very “attentive to the evolution of the active fires which led to the evacuation of several municipalities”, evoking “an extreme risk in the face of very high temperatures”.

The most worrying of these fires was that of Extremadura, a border region of Portugal, where thousands of hectares have burned in recent days. This one knew an “evolution obtained” and threatened the National Park of Monfragüe, a natural area protected for its biodiversity.

Another forest fire worried the authorities in Mijas, just a few dozen kilometers from Malaga, in Andalusia (south), where 2,300 people from surrounding communities were dislodged, according to the emergency services.

As of 4:20 p.m. (2:20 p.m. GMT), it was 43.9 degrees in Badajoz province in the southwest, with most areas showing mercury above 40 degrees.

Across the Mediterranean, one person has been killed in fires ravaging remote woodlands in northern Morocco, authorities said.


Risk of “extreme heat” in the UK

This heat wave will extend further north from the weekend.

In the United Kingdom, which for the first time issued an “extreme heat” red alert for Monday and Tuesday, the population is preparing for temperatures potentially never reached.

“We hoped never to come to this situation, but for the first time we have hopes that will face 40°C in the UK,” said Dr Nikos Christidis, a climate scientist. The absolute temperature record in this country (38.7 degrees) dates from 2019.

The NHS public health service has warned of a “link” in heat-related hospitalizations.

Ireland and Belgium are also expecting a scorching start to the week with temperatures reaching 32 and 38 degrees respectively locally.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has also warned of poor air quality, an aspect “unfortunately omitted from these heat waves”, according to scientific manager Lorenzo Labrador, who refers to “high concentrations of pollutants atmospheric and ozone levels”.

With AFP

Europe 1

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