headline news online news
By Daniel Silva with AFP European bureaus
Firefighters battled to contain wildfires sweeping across southwest Europe on Sunday as a heatwave showed no sign of abating, with Britain poised to set new temperature records this coming week. online news
Blazes raging in France, Greece, Portugal and Spain have destroyed thousands of hectares of land, forced thousands of residents and holidaymakers to flee and killed several emergency personnel since last week.
It is the second heatwave to engulf parts of southwest Europe in weeks. Scientists blame climate change and predict more frequent and intense episodes of extreme weather such as heatwaves and drought.
The situation deteriorated in France’s southwestern Gironde region where firefighters were fighting to control forest blazes that have devoured nearly 11,000 hectares (27,000 acres) since Tuesday.
The wildfires forced more than 16,000 people — residents and tourists combined — to decamp. Seven emergency shelters have been set up for evacuees.
France’s interior ministry announced it would send an extra three 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 heat records expected on Monday.
“In some southwestern areas, it will be a heat apocalypse,” meteorologist Francois Gourand told AFP.
France placed 15 departments, mainly down its western seaboard, on red alert — the highest on the scale — on Sunday while 51 were on orange high alert.
- ‘Exceptional’ conditions –
The chapel of a historic hospital in the southeastern city of Lyon, Grand Hotel Dieu, offered refuge to tourists on Sunday including Jean-Marc, 51, who was visiting from Alsace.
“We came back to admire the place but we can’t leave, it’s too hot outside. We say a prayer before the fire!” he quipped.
French cyclist Mikael Cherel, taking part in the Tour de France’s 15th stage between Rodez and Carcassonne in southern France on Sunday, described “very, very difficult conditions”.
“I’ve never known such a hot day on a bike. It really was no picnic.”
Authorities in the French Alps urged climbers bound for Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain, to postpone their trip due to repeated rock falls caused by “exceptional climatic conditions” and “drought”.
The call comes after a section of Italy’s biggest Alpine glacier gave way at the start of the month, killing 11 people — a disaster officials blamed on climate change.
- Deaths –
Spanish authorities reported around 20 wildfires still raging out of control in different parts of the country from the south to Galicia in the far northwest, where blazes have destroyed around 4,500 hectares of land.
headline news online news
Firefighters managed to stabilise a wildfire that ravaged 2,000 hectares of woods and bushes in the southern region of Andalusia, regional leader Juan Manuel Moreno said.
The blaze started on Friday in the Mijas mountain range inland from the southern coastal city of Malaga and it spurred the evacuation of about 3,000 people.
Around 2,000 people had since returned home and now that the blaze has stabilised, Moreno said the remaining evacuees may do the same.
The eastern town of Don Benito recorded Spain’s highest temperature on Sunday, with the mercury hitting 43.4C.
A 50-year-old man in Torrejon de Ardoz just outside of Madrid died on Sunday after suffering heat stroke while out for a walk, local emergency services said.
It is the latest death after a 60-year-old street cleaner in Madrid died on Saturday after suffering heat stroke while working the previous day.
The fight against the flames has also claimed the lives of several emergency personnel, including a pilot killed when his plane crashed in northern Portugal and two who died in Greece when their helicopter fell into the sea.
- ‘Risk to life’ in UK –
In Portugal, almost the entire country remained on high alert for wildfires despite a slight drop in temperatures, after hitting 47C — a record for the month of July — on Thursday.
Only one major fire was burning on Sunday in the north.
The fires have killed two, injured around 60 and destroyed between 12,000 and 15,000 hectares of land in Portugal.
In the United Kingdom, the weather office issued a first-ever “red” warning for extreme heat, cautioning there was a “risk to life”.
The Met Office said temperatures in southern England could exceed 40C on Monday or Tuesday for the first time, leading some schools to say they would stay closed next week.
Organisers of a four-day march in the Netherlands cancelled the first day of the mass event due to start on Tuesday because of extreme heat.
The mercury is set to reach 38C in parts of the Netherlands on Tuesday.
© Agence France-Presse. All rights are reserved.