Britain is set to set new temperature records this week as a heat wave showed no signs of abating as firefighters battled to contain wildfires raging through southwestern Europe on Sunday.
Fires in France, Greece, Portugal and Spain have destroyed thousands of hectares of land and displaced thousands of residents and holidaymakers.
It is the second heat wave to hit parts of South West Europe in weeks. Scientists blame climate change and predict more frequent and severe weather events such as heat waves and droughts.
Spanish authorities say about 20 wildfires are still out of control in various parts of the country, from the south to Galicia in the far northwest, and have destroyed 4,500 hectares of land.
The fires have killed several emergency workers since last week, most recently a firefighter who died on Sunday while battling a blaze in northwestern Spain.
In France’s southwestern Gironde region, the situation worsened on Tuesday as firefighters battled to contain a forest fire that burned nearly 11,000 hectares (27,000 acres).
Wildfires in France have forced more than 16,000 people – residents and tourists combined – to evacuate their camps. Seven emergency shelters have been set up for evacuees.
France’s interior ministry said it would send three more firefighting planes, 200 firefighters and more trucks.
Meteo France forecast temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of southern France on Sunday, with new records expected on Monday.
“It will be a heat apocalypse in some southwestern areas,” meteorologist Francois Gorand told AFP.
France put 15 departments, mainly on the west coast, on red alert – the highest – on Sunday, while 51 were on orange alert.
The historic hospital chapel in the southeastern city of Lyon, the Grand Hotel Dieu on Sunday offered accommodation to tourists, including Jean-Marc, who was visiting from Alsace.
“We came back to admire the place, but we couldn’t go out, it’s too hot outside. We’ll say a prayer before the fire!” he shouted.
French cyclist Michael Cherel participating in the Tour de France 15Th On Sunday, the stage between Rodez and Carcassonne in the south of France was described as “very, very difficult conditions”.
“I’ve never had such a hot day on the bike. It certainly wasn’t a picnic.
They managed to calm the wildfire that destroyed 2,000 hectares of trees and bushes in Spain, said regional leader Juan Manuel Moreno.
The fire started on Friday in the Mijas mountain range, inland from the southern coastal city of Malaga, prompting the evacuation of around 3,000 people.
Since then, about 2,000 people have returned to their homes, and now that the fire has calmed down, Moreno said the rest of the evacuees may do the same.
A firefighter died on Sunday in a blaze in Spain’s northwest Zamora province of Nus, the regional government said.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez expressed his “sorrow and love” to the man’s family and colleagues.
“There are no words to express our gratitude to those who are relentlessly fighting the fire for the great work they are doing. RIP,” he added on Twitter.
Sanchez is due to visit the eastern state of Extremadura on Monday, which has been battling several fires for days.
The firefighter’s death comes after a pilot was killed in a crash in northern Portugal last week, and two crew members died when their helicopter crashed into the sea in Greece.
Extreme heat claimed two lives in Spain over the weekend.
A 50-year-old man from Torrejon de Ardoz, outside Madrid, died of heat stroke while out for a walk on Sunday, local emergency services said.
And on Saturday, a 60-year-old street cleaner in Madrid died of heat stroke while working the previous day.
‘Risk of life’ in the UK
In Portugal, the entire country is on alert for wildfires despite a slight drop in temperatures after temperatures hit 47C – a July record – on Thursday.
Only one large fire was burning in the north on Sunday.
The fire killed two people, injured about 60 and destroyed 12,000 to 15,000 hectares of land in Portugal.
In the United Kingdom, the Met Office has issued the first “red” warning for high temperatures, warning that there is a “danger to life”.
The Met Office said temperatures in southern England could top 40C for the first time on Monday or Tuesday, prompting some schools to close next week.
Organizers of a four-day rally in the Netherlands canceled the first day of the rally, which was due to start on Tuesday, due to extreme heat.
The mercury is set to reach 38C in parts of the Netherlands on Tuesday.