Authorities in southern Europe battled on Sunday to control massive wildfires in countries including Spain, Greece and France that have killed hundreds of people over rising temperatures that scientists say are in line with climate change.
In Spain, helicopters dropped water on the flames in the form of heat above 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and the often mountainous terrain made the task difficult for firefighters.
Shocked by thick plumes of smoke rising over the central Jerte valley, residents said the heat was making their earlier green and cold home more like the semi-arid south of Spain.
“Climate change affects everyone,” said resident Miguel ngel Tamayo.
A study published in June in the journal ‘Environmental Research: Climate’ concluded that it is highly likely that climate change was making heat waves worse.
More than 1,000 people have died in Portugal and Spain due to the heat wave that lasted for almost a week. Temperatures have reached 45.7C (114F) in Spain.
Spain’s weather agency issued a temperature warning for Sunday, with a high forecast of 42 Celsius (108 Fahrenheit) in Aragon, Navarra and La Rioja in the north. It said the heatwave would end on Monday, but warned that temperatures would remain “abnormally high”.
Fires raged on Sunday afternoon in several other regions, including Castille and León in central Spain and Galicia in the north. Firefighters extinguished the fire in Mijas in Málaga province and said those evacuated could return home.
British pensioners William and Ellen McCurdy fled their home on Saturday to safety along with other evacuees at the local sports center just as the fire broke out.
“It was very fast…. I didn’t take it too seriously. I thought they had it under control and I was quite surprised when it was moving in our direction,” William, 68, told Reuters. Told.
In France, wildfires have now spread to 11,000 hectares (27,000 acres) in the southwestern region of the Gironde, and more than 14,000 people have been evacuated, regional officials said on Sunday afternoon.
More than 1,200 firefighters are trying to douse the blaze, officials said in a statement.
France issued a red alert, the highest possible for many regions, urging residents to “be extremely vigilant”.
In Italy, where there have been small fires in recent days, forecasters expect temperatures to rise above 40C in many areas in the coming days.
A similar temperature was recorded in Portugal on Sunday and is forecast in the UK on Monday and Tuesday, up from its previous official record of 38.7C (102F) set in Cambridge in 2019.
Britain’s national weather forecaster issued its first red “extreme heat” warning for parts of England. Railway passengers were advised to travel only when absolutely necessary and expect widespread delays and cancellations.
drought in portugal
About 1,000 firefighters tried to control 13 forest and rural fires in the center and north of Portugal, the largest near the northern city of Chaves.
Portugal’s health ministry said late on Saturday that 659 people, mostly elderly people, had died in the heatwave in the past seven days. It said the weekly peak of 440 deaths was on Thursday, when temperatures exceeded 40C (104F) in several areas and 47C (117F) at a meteorological station in Vizeu district in the center of the country.
As of Saturday, Spain had 360 heat-related deaths, according to data from the Carlos III Institute of Health.
According to data from the National Institute of Meteorology, Portugal was reeling under extreme drought even before the recent heatwave. About 96% of the mainland was already suffering from severe or extreme drought at the end of June.
Andre Fernandes, the commander of the Emergency and Civil Defense Authority, urged people to take care not to start new fires in such bone-dry conditions.
Greece’s fire department said Saturday there had been 71 fires within 24 hours.