Strong winds and hot, dry weather frustrated French firefighters’ efforts to contain a large wildfire that raged through wild forests for a fifth day on Saturday in the Bordeaux region, one of several burning in Europe in recent days.
In one of the worst fires in Portugal, the pilot of a firefighting plane died Friday when his plane crashed while operating in the northeast. More than 160 people have been injured and hundreds have been forced to evacuate their cities this week, the first deaths in fires in Portugal this year.
Fire season has hit parts of Europe earlier than usual this year after an unusually dry and warm spring that officials attribute to climate change.
About 3,000 firefighters, supported by water jets, are battling the blaze in southern France, the president said. Greece sent firefighting equipment. More than 11,000 people have been displaced from villages and camps.
Firefighters have brought one of the worst fires under control overnight near the Atlantic beach resort of Arcachon, popular with tourists from Europe, the region’s emergency services announced Saturday.
But he said “strong meteorological conditions” had hampered efforts to contain the largest fire in the region’s southern town of Landras, south of the Bordeaux vineyards. Charles Lafourcade, who oversees the firefighting process, told reporters at the scene that they are focusing their efforts on Saturday to use fire trucks to surround the affected villages and save as many houses as possible. The two fires have burned at least 9,650 hectares (23,800 acres) in recent days.
A similar scene is playing out in Portugal, where more than 3,000 firefighters are fighting alongside ordinary Portuguese citizens to save their homes from several wildfires caused by high temperatures and drought. The country’s civil protection agency said 10 fires were still burning Friday.
Portuguese state television RTP reported on Friday that the area burned this year exceeded the total for 2021. More than 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) of land have burned, most of it in the past week.
Spain, Croatia and Hungary also battled wildfires this week, as did California and Morocco. Many European countries are experiencing exceptional heat this month due to climate change.
Portuguese authorities said on Wednesday that the northern city of Pinhão recorded a July national high of 47 degrees Celsius.
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Britain’s Met Office has issued its first “red warning” for extreme heat on Monday and Tuesday, with temperatures expected to reach 37C in southern England.