Western Europe ravaged by wildfires as hundreds reported dead from heat wave

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Wildfires in southwestern France, Spain and Portugal forced thousands to evacuate their homes on Saturday, as a persistent heat wave swept across western Europe.

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

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

More than 160 people have been injured in Portugal as wildfires continue to burn for five straight days in France’s Bordeaux region.

The pilot of a firefighting plane died in a crash in northeastern Portugal on Friday. It was the first fire death of the year in Portugal.

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According to data from the Carlos III Institute of Health, there were 360 ​​heat-related deaths during the heat wave.

The fire season has fallen earlier than expected in parts of Europe as an unusually warm and dry spring has left soils parched.

Firefighters, supported by water jets, are battling a blaze in Casas de Miravet in the southern France and Extremadura region of Spain. Greece sent firefighting equipment.

Firefighters of the National Republican Guard extinguish a forest fire in the village of Rebolo, near Anciao, central Portugal, Thursday, July 14, 2022.

Firefighters of the National Republican Guard extinguish a forest fire in the village of Rebolo, near Anciao, central Portugal, Thursday, July 14, 2022.
(AP Photo/Armando Franca)

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

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

A similar scene is playing out in Portugal, where more than 3,000 firefighters battle with citizens desperate to save their homes from wildfires raging across the country.

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 between early and mid-June, more than three times the area burned during the same period last year, according to the Nature and Forestry Institute. 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.

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

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.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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