Emergency services were forced to evacuate in droves yesterday as wildfires raged across parts of southern Europe, as London warned of a need to step up the fight against climate change after Britain’s hottest day.
Hundreds have fled after a forest fire broke out near the Tuscan city of Lucca in central Italy after fuel tanks exploded. A similar number of people fled across Greece as fires fanned by gale-force winds swept through the mountains north of Athens. Greek authorities said late that the fire had been brought under control.
A brutal heat wave with highs of over 40 Celsius (104F) swept across southern Europe last week. Extreme heat is forecast to hit most of China until the end of August.
Energy consumption is forecast to reach new highs in central US states – adding to greenhouse gas emissions – as homes and businesses turn on air conditioners to deal with a heat wave forecast to last into next week.
While temperatures in the Mediterranean have eased over the past week, mercury readings have started to rise again in Portugal, Spain and Italy.
Armando Silva, head of the civil protection in Portugal’s northern region, said rising temperatures and strong winds were making it difficult to fight the country’s biggest wildfire centered on the municipality of Murca.
It has burned 10,000-12,000 hectares (as of Sunday) and around 800 firefighters and six watercraft have been deployed to tackle the problem.
In Spain, as emergency workers battle fires in five regions, the national weather service AEMET has predicted high temperatures.
Wildfires have raged across Italy, including parts of the northeastern city of Trieste that threatened to leave parts without electricity and water, and 14 metropolitan areas, including Rome, Milan and Florence, are set to issue heat wave warnings across the country.
Temperatures are expected to reach 40C in northern and central areas this week, forecasters said.
Britain’s Met Office’s chief science and technology officer, Stephen Belcher, said the country could face a similar heat wave every three years if emissions are not reduced.
Treasury Secretary Simon Clarke said Tuesday’s “amazing, unprecedented” record served as a “reminder of the importance of tackling climate change”. British engineers raced yesterday to repair railway tracks trapped in the heat after firefighters worked through the night to put out wildfires. On Tuesday, London’s firefighters endured their busiest day since World War II.
Climate change is leading to more wildfires and will force France and the European Union to take “structural decisions … in the coming years,” President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday.
In southern Europe, massive wildfires continue to rage.
In Italy, emergency workers in Tuscany battled the Lucca wildfire, which spread to villages overnight and caused liquefied gas tanks to explode, forcing the evacuation of about 500 people, the region’s governor, Eugenio Gianni, tweeted.
Another fire near the border with Croatia and Slovenia forced state shipbuilder Fincantieri to close its factory in the port city of Monfalcon.
As the fire crossed into Slovenia, the mayor of nearby Trieste told local TV that parts of the city could soon lose power, cutting off water supplies.