Paris – Firefighters battled on Sunday to contain wildfires burning out of control in France and Spain as Europe was hit by unusually high temperatures.That authority is associated with an increase in excess mortality.
Two massive fires that have been burning pine forests for six days just south of the southwestern French city of Bordeaux have forced the evacuation of nearly 14,000 people, many of whom were preparing to spend their holidays at campsites.
In Spain, firefighters supported by the armed forces’ emergency brigade are trying to extinguish more than 30 fires that have spread across the country. Spain’s National Defense Department said “the majority” of its firefighting aircraft had been deployed. Many areas are rugged, mountainous terrain that makes it difficult for ground crews to access.
So far, there have been no deaths from the fires in France or Spain. In Portugal, the pilot of a firefighting plane died after his plane crashed on Friday.
But as temperatures are unusually high, heat-related deaths are on the rise.
Spain’s second summer heat wave has kept highs above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in many areas. According to Spain’s Carlos III Institute, which records temperature-related deaths daily, 237 people died from high temperatures from July 10-14. That compared with 25 temperature-related deaths in the previous five days.
In France, the La Teste-de-Buche fire near the Atlantic coast has forced 10,000 people to flee. The Gironde regional government said on Sunday that “the situation remains unfavorable” due to gusty winds which, combined with hot and dry conditions, have flared up overnight.
A second fire near the town of Landyras, south of a valley in the Bordeaux vineyards, forced authorities to evacuate 4,100 people this week, including about 1,900 on Saturday. Authorities said a two-kilometer (1.2-mile) stretch of white sand had been brought under control by dumping one flank. Another flank, however, remains unchecked.
Some of Spain’s most alarming fires are concentrated in western Extremadura and Castilla y León. Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlasca announced a joint command that will coordinate efforts to combat active wildfires in neighboring areas.
Firefighters were unable to stop the progress of a fire near the town of Cáceres that threatened the Monfragu National Park and prevented 200 people from returning to their homes.
Another fire in southern Spain near the city of Malaga forced the evacuation of another 2,500 people. Among other areas, there are more fires near the central city of Avila in northwestern Galicia.
Hungary, Croatia and the Greek island of Crete also battled wildfires this week, as did Morocco and California.
Scorching temperatures reached as far north as Britain, where its Met Office issued its first “red warning” of extreme heat for Monday and Tuesday, while temperatures in southern England could reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) for the first time.
That would still be relatively bearable compared to the 47 C (117 F) recorded in the northern Portuguese city of Pinhao on Wednesday, setting a new national record.