‘Climate change affects everyone’: Europe battles wildfires in scorching heat

  • Climate scientists say heat waves are more frequent and intense
  • Hundreds of deaths are attributed to the heat in Portugal
  • Britain braced for its highest recorded day
  • Temperatures in Spain in recent days have reached 45.7 ° C

GURT, Spain, July 17 (Reuters) – Authorities in southern Europe struggled on Sunday to control massive wildfires in countries including Spain, Greece and France, with hundreds of deaths blamed on rising temperatures that scientists say are in line with climate change. the climate.

In Spain, helicopters dropped water on the flames as the heat rose above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and the mountainous terrain often made the firefighters’ job more difficult.

Watching thick plumes of smoke billowing over the central western Gerti Valley, shocked residents said the heat makes their formerly green and cool homes more like semi-arid southern Spain.

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“Climate change affects everyone,” said resident Miguel Angel Tamayo.

A study published in June in the journal “Environmental Research: Climate” concluded that it is very likely that climate change has exacerbated heat waves. Read more

More than 1,000 deaths have been attributed to the heat wave that has lasted nearly a week in Portugal and Spain so far. Temperatures in Spain reached 45.7 °C (114 °F).

The Spanish Meteorological Agency issued temperature warnings for Sunday, with a high of 42°C (108°F) forecast for Aragon, Navarra and La Rioja in the north. She said the heat wave would end on Monday but warned that temperatures would remain “extraordinarily high”.

Fires broke out in several other regions, including Castile and Leon in central Spain and Galicia in the north on Sunday afternoon. Firefighters succeeded in stabilizing a fire in Mijas, Malaga province, and said the evacuees could go home.

British pensioners William and Elaine McCurdy had fled their home on Saturday, seeking safety with evacuees at a local sports center as the blaze approached.

“It was very fast … I didn’t take it seriously. I thought they had it under control and I was totally surprised when it seemed to be moving in our direction,” William, 68, told Reuters.

In France, wildfires have now spread to more than 11,000 hectares (27,000 acres) in the southwest region of the Gironde, and more than 14,000 people have been evacuated, regional authorities said Sunday afternoon.

Authorities said in a statement that more than 1,200 firefighters were trying to get the fires under control.

France has issued red alerts, the highest possible, for several regions, while urging residents to “exercise caution”.

In Italy, where small fires have been burning in recent days, meteorologists expect temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius in several regions in the coming days.

Similar temperatures were recorded in Portugal on Sunday, and are expected in Britain on Monday and Tuesday, in what could exceed the previous official record of 38.7 degrees Celsius (102 Fahrenheit) set in Cambridge in 2019.

Britain’s meteorologist has issued the first red warning of ‘severe heat’ for parts of England. Rail passengers were advised to travel only when absolutely necessary and to expect widespread delays and cancellations.

drought in Portugal

About 1,000 firefighters tried to control 13 fires in forests and rural areas in central and northern Portugal, the largest of which was near the northern city of Chaves.

The Portuguese Ministry of Health said late Saturday evening, that 659 people died in the past seven days due to the heat wave, most of them elderly. She said the weekly peak of 440 deaths was on Thursday, when temperatures topped 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in several areas and 47 degrees Celsius (117 Fahrenheit) at a weather station in the central Viseu region.

By Saturday, there were 360 ​​heat-related deaths in Spain, according to figures from the Carlos III Institute of Health.

Portugal was experiencing severe drought even before the latest heat wave, according to data from the National Institute of Meteorology. About 96% of the mainland was already experiencing severe or severe drought at the end of June.

The commander of the Emergency and Civil Protection Authority, Andre Fernandez, urged people to be careful not to start new fires in such dry conditions.

On Saturday, Greece’s fire brigade said 71 fires broke out within 24 hours.

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Additional reporting by Guillermo Martinez, Lily Forodi, Sergio Goncalves, Jessica Jones, Rene Maltezo, John Nazca and Mariano Valladolid.

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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