Fierce wildfires force thousands in southwestern France to flee homes

Wildfires raged across southwest France and Spain on Saturday, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes as the scorching summer heat sent authorities on alert in some parts of Europe.

More than 12,200 people were evacuated from France’s Gironde region as more than 1,000 firefighters battled the blaze, regional authorities said in a statement.

Wildfires have ravaged France in recent weeks, as well as other European countries, including Portugal and Spain. Nearly 10,000 hectares of land were burned by fire in the Gironde region on Saturday; 7,300 acres from Friday.

Blaise also fought in Spain.

In neighboring Spain, firefighters battled repeated blazes after days of unusually high temperatures of up to 45.7C.

A wildfire broke out near Alaharin de la Torre’s home in Malaga, Spain on Saturday. (Gregorio Marrero/Associated Press)

According to data from the Carlos III Health Institute, 360 people have died from heat-related illnesses in the week-long heat wave.

More than 3,000 people have been displaced by a large wildfire near Mijas in southern Malaga province, popular with northern European tourists, the region’s emergency services said on Twitter early Saturday.

Several were taken to the regional sports center.

British pensioner John Pretty, 83, said: “The police were driving up and down the road with sirens and everyone was being told to leave. Just get out. There is no guidance on where to go

“It’s scary … because you don’t know what’s going on,” said 68-year-old Belgian resident Jean-Marie Vandelanotte.

A wildfire was seen burning near Casas de Miravet in Spain. (Isabel Infantes/Reuters)

Elsewhere in Spain, helicopters dropped water on a blaze that burned 3,000 hectares, forcing the evacuation of two villages and sending thick black plumes of smoke into the air near Casas de Miravet in the Extremadura region, as it reached Monfrage National Park.

Fires were burning in central Castile and Leon and northern Galicia.

Heat relief in Portugal

There was some respite for firefighters in Portugal, where temperatures across much of the country dropped on Saturday after reaching nearly 40C in recent days.

A helicopter was seen dropping water on a wildfire near the village of Bustelo in northern Portugal. (Patricia de Mello Moriera/AFP/Getty Images)

Andre Fernandez, commander of the Emergency and Civil Protection Authority, told reporters: “We have a big fire and we don’t want it to rekindle… We will be very careful this weekend.”

A total of 39,550 hectares of land were destroyed by wildfires from the start of the year to mid-June, more than triple the area burned in the same period last year, according to data from Portugal’s Institute of Nature and Forestry.

Nearly two-thirds of the area has been burned by wildfires in the past week.

Portugal’s health ministry said 238 people died as a result of the July 7-13 heat wave, most of them elderly people with chronic illnesses.

Forest fires in Morocco

Across the Mediterranean Sea from Europe, a fire in Morocco has destroyed more than 2,000 hectares of forest in the northern regions of Larache, Ouazzan, Taza and Tetouan, killing at least one person, local authorities said.

Firefighters are seen battling a forest fire in the Larache region of Ksar el-Kebir in Morocco on Friday. (Fadel Sena/AFP/Getty Images)

More than 1,000 households have been displaced. Although firefighters were struggling to put out three hot spots near Larache, water-carrying planes helped put out most of the blaze Friday night.

In Britain, the National Weather Service issued its first red “extreme heat” warning for parts of England on Monday and Tuesday.

Britain’s highest recorded temperature of 38.7C was recorded in Cambridge on July 25, 2019.

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