A heat wave has killed at least 360 people in Spain since July 10, and thousands have been forced to flee southern France after wildfires allegedly started by mechanical problems.
In Spain, hundreds of people have died as temperatures soared to 45 degrees Celsius – or 114 degrees Fahrenheit – across the region, the Carlos III Health Institute reported on Friday. The heat wave has contributed to massive wildfires in several countries that have burned thousands of hectares. In southwestern France alone, 12,000 people have been forced to flee multiple fires.
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Bourne blamed the fire in the La Teste-de-Buch region on an electric vehicle near Wood Glen. A second wildfire in France is also being investigated as a crime.
“It is estimated that 80% of forest fires are caused by humans,” he told France’s BFMTV news.
Patrick Devette, the mayor of La Teste-de-Buch, the village where the fire was reported, pushed back on Bourne’s claims.
“What Elisabeth Bourne is saying is completely false,” he told French newspaper Suddust, via an online translation. “The fire started from a damaged van with electrical problems. The driver tried to alert the emergency services but the crash occurred in an area with no telephone network. He had to go to call the fire department. But it’s too late.
A tourist visiting France told local press that he and his son were unable to take their belongings as they rushed to escape the raging fire.
“We started packing, but the woman said, ‘No, you have to leave everything as it is,'” tourist Matthias told BFMTV. “You try to stay calm, but it’s hard to be scared because it happens so fast.”
The head of the French Fire Federation is calling for hundreds of thousands of volunteers to help fight the blaze.
“The situation is very complicated,” Gregory Allione told France’s RMC TV. “Our morale is still good, but fatigue sets in quickly. That’s why we’re targeting 250,000 volunteer firefighters.
Alione also blamed the fire on global warming, saying frontline workers see the impact every day.
“Firefighters, civil security are the ones who deal with the impact every day – and these impacts are not in 2030, they are now,” Allen told reporters.
At least 20 different wildfires are currently burning in Spain.