Spate of Wildfires Scorches Parts of Europe Amid Heat Wave
(LISBON, Portugal)—A spate of wildfires is scorching parts of Europe, with firefighters battling blazes in Portugal, Spain, and southern France on Wednesday amid an unusual heat wave that authorities are linking to climate change.
In Portugal, Civil Protection commander André Fernandes said that multiple fires have caused the evacuation of more than 600 people. About 120 people needed medical treatment, with two people — one civilian and one firefighter — suffering serious injuries, Fernandes said.
Water-dumping planes helped 1,300 firefighters combat the worst of the blazes in the nation’s central area, while another 1,000 worked to bring other fires under control.
The European heat wave is also sparking flames in Spain and France — and in Turkey at the other end of the Mediterranean.
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The regional emergency service reports that more than 800 firefighters battled the wildfires outside Bordeaux, southwest France. The fires began Tuesday near the towns of Landiras and La Teste-de-Buch, and firefighters hadn’t been able to contain them by Wednesday morning.
Around 6,500 people were evacuated from villages and campgrounds in the forested areas. Unknown is the number of people who have been injured. The emergency service stated that the fires had destroyed over 1,800 hectares (or 4,400 acres) of terrain.
Firefighters captured images of flames racing through dense forests and grasslands, set off by strong winds and with smoke turning the sky black.
Regional administrations have banned activities in forest areas that are at high risk. Many regions throughout southern France have been placed on high alert due to hot and dry conditions, as well as strong winds. Last week, wildfires broke out in the Gard region of southeast France.
Portugal has suffered from forest fires that killed many people for a long time. 2017 saw more than 100 deaths from wildfires. Since then, no one has been killed by wildfires. Portugal’s forest management and firefighting methods have improved.
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Portugal had its worst year for wildfires in 2011 and 2012. The Iberian Peninsula has been experiencing higher temperatures because of the African wind’s mass of dry and hot air.
Atlantic Country, on alert for wildfires, has been sweltering since last week. A spike in temperatures is expected to cause thermometers to register 46 C (115 F), in central Alentejo on Wednesday and Thursday. Authorities said that 96% of the country was classified at the end of June as being in either “extreme” or “severe” drought.
Mayor Goncalo Lopes stated that more than 3,000 ha (7.400 acres), had been consumed by one person in Leiria just north Lisbon.
The temperatures in Spain, a neighboring country, reached 43 C on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, more than 400 people had to be evacuated because of the wildfire in west Spain that destroyed 3,500 ha (8.600 acres).
Last week, officials from the European Union issued an alarm that climate change was behind this extremely hot and dry summer across Europe.
Cayetano Torres, spokesman for Spain’s national weather forecaster, said that the “unusual” heat wave and lack of rainfall in recent months has created ideal circumstances for fires.
“These are perfect conditions for the propagation of fires, which when you add to that some wind, you have have guaranteed propagation,” he said.
In southwestern Turkey, a blaze erupted in an area close to the village of Mesudiye, near the Aegean Sea resort of Datca, and was moving in the direction of some homes in the area, according to the provincial governor’s office. The governor stated that at most nine water-dropping helicopters had been deployed and five planes were also being used to fight the fire.
Last summer, blazes that were fed by strong winds and scorching temperatures tore through forests in Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean regions. The wildfires, which killed at least eight people and countless animals, were described as the worst in Turkey’s history.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government came under criticism for its inadequate response and preparedness to fight large-scale wildfires, including a lack of modern firefighting planes.
Joseph Wilson Report from Barcelona, Spain Angela CharltonParis Renata BritoBarcelona Suzan FrazerIstanbul contributed to the report.
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