Southern Europe battles wildfires in intense heat

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TOPSHOT - Firefighters operate at the site of a wildfire in Pumarejo de Tera near Zamora, northern Spain, on June 18, 2022. - Firefighters continued to fight against multiple fires in Spain, one of which ravaged nearly 20,000 hectares of land, on the last day of an extreme heat wave which crushed the country, with peaks at 43 degrees. The largest of these forest fires was still out of control this afternoon in the Sierra de la Culebra, a mountain range in the region of Castile and Leon (northwest), near the border with Portugal. (Photo by CESAR MANSO / AFP) (Photo by CESAR MANSO/AFP via Getty Images)

Authorities across southern Europe battled on Sunday to control huge wildfires in countries including Spain, Greece and France, with hundreds of deaths blamed on soaring temperatures that scientists say are consistent with climate change, reported by CNN.

Similar temperatures are forecast in Britain on Monday and Tuesday in what would top a previous official record of 38.7 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit) set in Cambridge in 2019.

Britain’s national weather forecaster has issued its first red “extreme heat” warning for parts of England. Rail passengers were advised to only travel if absolutely necessary and to expect widespread delays and cancellations.

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

Shocked residents watching thick plumes of smoke rising above the central western Jerte valley said the heat was making their previously green and cool home more like Spain’s semi-arid south.

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

A study published in June in the journal Environmental Research: Climate concluded it was highly probable that climate change was making heatwaves worse.

At least 1,000 deaths have been attributed to the heatwave in Portugal and Spain so far. Temperatures in Spain have reached as high as 45.7 degrees Celsius (114 degrees Fahrenheit) during the nearly week-long heat wave.

Spain’s weather agency issued temperature warnings for Sunday, with highs of 42 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit) forecast in Aragon, Navarra and La Rioja, in the north. It said the heatwave would end on Monday, but warned temperatures would remain “abnormally high.”

Fires were raging in several other regions including Castille and Leon in central Spain and Galicia in the north on Sunday afternoon. In Malaga province in southern Spain, wildfires raged into the night, affecting local residents near Mijas, a town popular with northern European tourists.

British pensioners William and Ellen McCurdy fled for safety with other evacuees in a local sport center from their home on Saturday as the fire approached.

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

“We just grabbed a few essentials and just ran and by that stage everybody along the street was on the move,” Ellen said.

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

More than 1,200 firefighters were trying to control the blazes, the authorities said in a statement.

France issued red alerts, the highest possible, for several regions, with residents urged “to be extremely vigilant.”

In Italy, where smaller fires have blazed in recent days, forecasters expect temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in several regions in coming days.

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