2 people die in Spanish wildfires

LA TESTE-DE-BUCH, France — A heat wave ravaging Europe swept north into Britain on Monday and sparked devastating wildfires in Spain and France, displacing thousands and prompting water-bombing planes and firefighters to battle dry forests.

In Spain, two people died in a fire linked to global warming, where the prime minister said “climate change will kill”.

The death toll is higher than the hundreds of heat-related deaths reported in the Iberian Peninsula, as extreme heat has gripped the continent in recent days and fueled wildfires from Portugal to the Balkans. Some areas, including northern Italy, are also experiencing prolonged drought.

Temperature records were broken in France and strong storms complicated firefighting in the southwest of the country.

“The fire is really exploding,” said regional fire chief Mark Vermeulen as tree trunks snapped in flames, sending burning embers into the air and spreading the fire further.

“We are facing dire and extraordinary circumstances,” he said.

Authorities are evacuating more cities and evacuating 14,900 people from areas that may be in the path of the fire and suppressing smoke. In total, more than 31,000 people have been forced from their homes and winter vacations in the Gironde region since the wildfires began on July 12.

Three more planes were sent to join six others in fighting the blaze, pumping seawater and making repeated runs through thick clouds of smoke, the Interior Ministry said Sunday night.

More than 200 reinforcements are on their way to join 1,500 firefighters trying to control the blaze in the Gironde, where the blaze has sent thick smoke over expensive vineyards and the Arcachon basin, famous for its Ister and beaches.

Spain, on the other hand, announced the second death by self-immolation in two days. The body of a 69-year-old sheep farmer was found in the same hill area where a 62-year-old firefighter died in a fire in the northwest Zamora district on Monday.

More than 30 wildfires across Spain have displaced thousands of people and engulfed 85 square miles of forest and wasteland.

Passengers on board a train through Zamora were horrified to see the flames up close as their train stopped in the countryside. A video of the unscheduled parking lot shows about a dozen passengers in a train car looking out the window at the flames on both sides of the track.

Climate scientists say heat waves are more intense, more frequent and longer because of climate change — and combined with drought, it’s made it harder to fight wildfires. They say climate change will make weather more severe and make wildfires more frequent and destructive.

“Climate change is killing people,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said during a visit to the Extremadura region. It kills our ecosystems and biodiversity.

At least 748 heat-related deaths occurred in Spain and neighboring Portugal earlier this month, when temperatures reached 117 degrees Fahrenheit.

The heatwave in Spain is forecast to ease today, but the relief will be short-lived as temperatures rise again on Wednesday, particularly in the dry western region of Extremadura.

France’s often warm Brittany region recorded a high of 102.7 degrees in the port of Brest, up from 95.1 degrees since September 2003, according to Meteo-France, the French weather service.

Regional records in France were broken in more than a dozen cities, with the weather service saying Monday was “the hottest day of this heat wave”.

The Balkan region expected the worst of the heat this weekend, but there have already been sporadic wildfires.

Early Monday, Slovenian officials said firefighters had brought one fire under control.

Croatia sent a watercraft to help last week after battling its own wildfires in the Adriatic Sea. A fire in Šibenik forced some people to evacuate their homes but was later extinguished.

In Portugal, very cold weather on Monday helped fire crews make progress. More than 600 firefighters battled four major blazes in northern Portugal.

Data for this article was contributed by Danica Kirka, Jill Lawless, Geir Moulson, Raquel Redondo, Barry Hutton and Giovanna Geck of The Associated Press.

Photo A firefighter tries to put out a wildfire in Ferreiras de Abajo, Spain, Monday, July 18, 2022. It has been responsible for the death of hundreds of people in Madrid. (AP Photo/Emilio Fraile)

Gallery: Europe wildfire

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