LONDON/PARIS: Firefighters in south-west France struggled to contain huge forest fires on Tuesday, while Britain recorded its hottest temperature on record, causing railway tracks to bend and grass fires to ignite in dry conditions around London.
Southern and western Germany and Belgium were also braced for possible record temperatures as a heat wave scientists attribute to climate change spread north and east.
The fire, fueled by strong winds, raged in a mountainous area near homes on the outskirts of the Greek capital, prompting authorities to order the evacuation of at least one area.
Many wildfires are reported in Italy. One of the largest fires broke out on Monday evening in the Massarosa hills in Tuscany and was still raging on Tuesday afternoon.
“The wind-driven fire continues to devour forests in a frightening way,” said Tuscany Governor Eugenio Giani. He said 365 hectares (900 acres) of land had been destroyed.
Forest fires are raging in France and Spain, while heat waves are sweeping Europe
Forest fires were also reported near Rome, as well as on the shores of Lake Orta north of Milan and near the northeastern city of Trieste, prompting authorities to close a highway and a railway line, and temperatures will remain high.
Temperatures above 40C (104F) were temporarily recorded in Britain for the first time, the Met Office said.
Britain, which often struggles to maintain key transport services when it is hit by unexpected weather such as heavy snowfall or strong winds, has been declared a “national emergency” by the unprecedented temperatures.
Rail routes from London to the country’s east and west coasts were cancelled, power companies reported mass outages and normally busy city centers appeared quiet. Network Rail tweeted images showing the bends and bends of the tracks.
East of the capital, a large fire engulfed homes in the village of Wennington, with flames raging across neighboring fields and closing in on a historic church. Elsewhere, large grassy areas around the capital burned.
FIRES ‘NOT STABILIZED’
The worst wildfires in more than 30 years have broken out in southwestern France’s Gironde wine region, and authorities say a man has been detained on suspicion of arson.
The fires have spread to 19,300 hectares (about 75 square miles) in the countryside around Bordeaux since July 12, forcing a total of 34,000 people to evacuate their homes.
About 2,000 firefighters, supported by eight water bombers, fought the blaze.
“Despite ground and air strikes, the situation has still not stabilized,” the state prefecture said, adding that there were no reports of deaths or injuries.
Heat wave sparks fires in Europe
Due to human-induced climate change and droughts, the number of extreme forest fires is expected to increase by 30% over the next 28 years, according to a February 2022 UN report.
“Heat waves are more frequent and heat waves are hotter than they would be without climate change,” Friederike Otto, a senior lecturer in climate science at Imperial College London, told Reuters.
The focus was on the health impact of the heat wave, with special attention paid to the elderly and vulnerable.
“People don’t really feel like they need to drink a lot, so they can become dehydrated, which is really dangerous for the elderly,” said deputy manager Annick Van huylenbroeck of a nursing home in Grimbergen, north of Brussels.
High night-time temperatures are also hampering firefighter responses across Europe and worsening health conditions as nighttime hours fail to provide cooling, experts said on Tuesday.
FLAMES AND SMOKE
In Italy, temperatures are expected to reach 40 C throughout the week in the northern and central parts, as well as in the southern part of the Italian boot, in Puglia and on the islands of Sardinia and Sicily.
The highest red alert was declared for five cities on Tuesday due to the heat wave. The warning, warning of serious weather-related health risks, will cover nine cities on Wednesday and will increase to 14 on Thursday, including many of Italy’s largest metropolitan areas, including Rome, Milan and Florence.
Although the mercury in Spain and Portugal dropped back towards more normal summer levels, firefighters in both countries were still battling several fires.
More than 30 wildfires continued to ravage parts of Spain, with authorities paying particular attention to four fires in Castile and Leon and Galicia.
More than 6,000 people in 32 villages were evacuated in Losacio, in the northwestern province of Zamora, where two people died and three were seriously injured.
“The drought is affecting us very, very much. Bear in mind that there has been no rain for the last five or six months and some of the people from these towns are elderly, the properties are not cleaned well and are full of overgrown vegetation,” said Hanibal Pena, 69, who lives in Tabari in the province of Zamora.
So far this year, 70,000 hectares (173,000 acres) have burned in Spain, about twice the average for the past decade, official figures showed before the heatwave.
In neighboring Portugal, around 50 municipalities, mainly in the central and northern regions, still face the “highest risk” of wildfires, according to weather institute IPMA.
“Alcohol scholar. Hardcore tv junkie. Wannabe bacon enthusiast. Twitter fanatic. Subtly charming travel guru. Pop culture specialist.”