Wildfires rage in France, Spain as heatwaves sear Europe

On July 16, 2022, a wildfire burns in Alharin el Grande in southern Spain.  REUTERS/John Nazca

On July 16, 2022, a wildfire burns in Alharin el Grande in southern Spain. REUTERS/John Nazca

Paris/Lisbon – On Saturday wildfires in southwestern France and Spain forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes, as the intense summer heat authorities remained alert in some parts of Europe.

About 14,000 people were evacuated from France’s Gironde region Saturday afternoon as more than 1,200 firefighters battled the blaze, regional officials said in a statement.

“We have a fire that will continue to spread until it is calmed down,” Vincent Ferrier, deputy governor of Langone in the Gironde, told a news conference.

Wildfires have ravaged France in recent weeks, as well as other European countries including Portugal and Spain, and more than 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) of land had burned in the Gironde region on Saturday, up from 7,300 hectares on Friday.

In the latest weather warning, 38 of France’s 96 departments were listed on an “orange” alert, with residents urged to remain vigilant. Temperatures are expected to be the hottest in western France on Monday, with temperatures topping 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

In neighboring Spain, firefighters were battling a series of blazes after days of unusually high temperatures of up to 45.7C (114F).

According to data from the Carlos III Health Institute, 360 people have died of heat-related illnesses in the week-long heat wave.

More than 3,000 people have been displaced by a large wildfire near Mijas in Malaga province, popular with northern European tourists, the region’s emergency services tweeted early Saturday.

Many were taken to a regional sports center.

“The police drove down the road with their sirens on and everyone was told to get out. Just leave it alone. There is no guidance on where to go,” said John Pretty, an 83-year-old British retiree.

“It’s scary … because you don’t know what’s going on,” said 68-year-old Belgian resident Jean-Marie Vandelanotte.

Elsewhere in Spain, thick black plumes of smoke rose into the air near Casas de Miravet in the Extremadura region as helicopters dropped water on the blaze, which burned 3,000 hectares, forced the evacuation of two villages and reached the Monfrage National Park.

Fires were burning in central Castile and Leon and northern Galicia.

There was some respite for firefighters in Portugal, where temperatures across much of the country dropped on Saturday after reaching nearly 40C (104F) in recent days.

“We have a big fire and we don’t want it to rekindle… We will be very careful this weekend,” Andre Fernandez, commander of the Emergency and Civil Protection Authority, told reporters.

A total of 39,550 hectares (98,000 acres) were destroyed by wildfires from early to mid-June. He showed.

Nearly two-thirds of the area has been burned by wildfires in the past week.

Portugal’s health ministry said 238 people died in the heat wave between July 7 and 13, most of them elderly people with chronic illnesses.

Morocco burned

Across the Mediterranean Sea from Europe, a fire in Morocco has burned more than 2,000 hectares of forest in northern Larache, Ouazzan, Taza and Tetouan, killing at least one person, local officials said.

More than 1,000 households were evacuated and water tankers helped extinguish most of the blaze Friday night, although firefighters were still battling to put out three hot spots near Larache.

In Britain, the National Weather Service issued its first red “extreme heat” warning for parts of England on Monday and Tuesday.

With record-breaking temperatures expected, the state’s emergency response committee was scheduled to meet later Saturday.

The highest recorded temperature in Britain was 38.7C (101.7F), recorded in Cambridge on July 25, 2019.

Read: Portugal, Spain hit by heat wave amid wildfire warning

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