Europe is engulfed by a heat wave and numerous fires. Firefighters and emergency crews are scrambling to put out forest fires in France and Spain as a sharp rise in heat deaths is reported. The European Commission has cited climate change as the cause of the unusual heat.
Firefighters were struggling Sunday to control wildfires that have raged in France and Spain as Europe experiences an unusual extreme heat wave. The authorities in Madrid say that the number of deaths from the heat has increased.
Two large fires that have been burning pine forests for six days near the city of Bordeaux in southwestern France have forced the evacuation of about 14,000 people, many of whom were in holiday camps along the coast. One of the techniques that the authorities are using is the throwing of white sand to create a kind of border against the fire for kilometers. So far over 10,300 hectares of land have been burnt.
With the support of the army’s emergency units, firefighters in Spain are trying to put out about 30 forest fires across the country. Spain’s Department of National Defense announced that it has already mobilized most of the aircraft to fight the fires. Many of the wildfire areas are remote areas with rugged, hilly terrain that can be difficult for emergency crews to reach.
The drought conditions created in the Iberian Peninsula after the arrival last week of a mass of hot air from Africa, have made the region more exposed to fires, some of which may have been set deliberately.
So far, there have been no deaths from the fires in France or Spain. While in Portugal, a pilot lost his life when the plane he was fighting the flames with crashed.
As high temperatures continue to be at unusual levels, heat deaths have increased. The European Union attributed the heat wave to climate change.
In Spain, the second heat wave has brought temperatures to 43 degrees Celsius in many areas. According to the Spanish institute that registers deaths from temperatures, there were 360 victims in just a few days during the period 10-15 July, while during the preceding period there had been only 27 such deaths.
Firefighters are also battling the flames in other parts of Europe, such as in Hungary, Croatia and the Greek island of Crete. The high temperatures have reached Britain, where the authorities have issued the first “red” warning for the extreme heat that is expected during Monday and Tuesday.