Firefighters battled out-of-control wildfires in Spain and France, which reached two popular Atlantic coasts on Sunday, as Europe grappled with an unusually high heat wave.
There have been no fire-related deaths in France or Spain so far, but authorities in Madrid have blamed rising temperatures for hundreds of deaths. Two huge fires in southwestern France have consumed pine forests for six days, forcing the evacuation of 16,200 people.
The Met Office has issued its first “red warning” for extreme heat on Monday and Tuesday, where temperatures could reach 40C (104F) for the first time in southern England. Photo / AP
In dramatic pictures posted online, a wall of black smoke billows into the Atlantic Ocean on the coast of Bordeaux, admired by surfers from around the world. As planes flew low to scoop up water from the ocean, flames clashed against trees on a wide sandy beach. Elsewhere, smoke covered the sky above singed trees in images shared by French firefighters.
In Spain, firefighters supported by military brigades have tried to extinguish more than 30 fires that are consuming forests across the country. Spain’s National Defense Department said “most” of its firefighting aircraft were deployed to reach the blaze, many of which are rugged and hilly, making it difficult for ground crews to reach.
A dry and hot spring that the European Union has blamed on climate change has caused wildfires in some parts of Europe earlier than usual this year. Some countries are also experiencing prolonged droughts, while many others are suffering from heat waves.
A man prepares to enter the water during a heat wave in Anse, outside Lyon in central France. Photo / AP
In Spain’s second summer heat, many areas saw highs of 43C on a regular basis. According to Spain’s Carlos III Institute, 360 people died in the high temperature between July 10 and 15. In the last six days, the temperature was 27.
Almost everyone is on alert for high temperatures on Sunday, with heat wave warnings in place for half of France, with temperatures expected to rise on Monday. In the year After a bad heat wave in 2003 and poor planning killed nearly 15,000 people, mostly the elderly, the French government stepped up its efforts to protect the elderly, homeless and other vulnerable populations.
As Europe grapples with an unusually high heat wave, firefighters are struggling to contain wildfires in France and Spain, which authorities have linked to a spike in deaths. Photo / AP
The fires in La Teste-de-Buch forced the evacuation of more than 10,000 people; During this time, many flock to the nearby Atlantic beach area for vacations. French authorities have closed many areas of that beach to the public because of the fire, including La Lagune and Petit Nice beaches, where the fire broke out on Sunday, and Dun du Pilat, Europe’s longest sand dune.
The Gironde regional government said Sunday afternoon that the “situation is not very favorable” due to strong winds that fueled more fires overnight.
People relax on a pleasure boat on the lake in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, July 16, 2022.
A second wildfire near the town of Landiras forced authorities to evacuate 4,100 people this week. He said one side was controlled by throwing white sand at a distance of 2 km. The other stem remains unexamined.
People forced to flee have shared their concerns with local media about their abandoned homes, and local authorities have organized special trips to bring back pets, some of whom have left behind in the rush to safety.
In total, the two fires burned more than 100 square kilometers.
Emergency officials warned that high temperatures and winds on Sunday and Monday would complicate efforts to contain the blaze.
“We have to be very careful and very humble, because the day will be very hot. We don’t have a favorable weather window,” Eric Florence, the regional fire official, said Sunday on Radio France-Bleu.
Some of the most serious fires in Spain are concentrated in the western regions of Extremadura and Castilla y León. Over the sun-baked forested hills, a dark haze of smoke has become commonplace in the sparsely populated countryside.
Drought conditions in the Iberian Peninsula make it particularly vulnerable to wildfires. Since last October, Spain has accumulated 25 percent less rain than what is considered normal – and some areas have received up to 75 percent below normal, the Department of Homeland Security said.
A woman enjoys the water with her daughter during a heat wave in Anse, outside Lyon, in central France. Photo / AP
While some fires are caused by lightning and others by human negligence, the fire in the Lagarganta de los Infiernos, or “Hell’s Throat” area of Extremadura’s nature reserve, was caused by fire, regional officials said.
Firefighters have been unable to contain a blaze near the city of Cáceres that is threatening the Monfrague National Park and has forced 200 people to return to their homes. Another fire near the city of Malaga in southern Spain prompted the evacuation of another 2,500 people.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced Monday that he would travel to Extramadura to visit the worst-hit areas.
Hungary, Croatia and the Greek island of Crete battled wildfires this week, as did Morocco and California. Italy is at the start of summer combined with the worst drought in the north in 70 years – conditions linked to the recent disaster, when the Marmolada glacier erupted and killed dozens of hikers.
The intense heat has also reached northern Europe. The annual four-day walking event in the Dutch city of Nijmegen announced on Sunday that it would cancel the first day scheduled for Tuesday, with temperatures expected to reach a high of around 39C.
This photo provided by the Gironde Regional Fire Brigade (SDIS 33) shows firefighters working on a fire near Landras in southwestern France. Photo / AP
Britain’s Met Office has issued its first “red warning” for extreme heat on Monday and Tuesday, where temperatures could reach 40C for the first time in southern England.
Tracy Nicholls, chief executive of the College of Paramedics, warned on Sunday that the “horrendous heatwave” could “end up killing people”.