Firefighters battled to contain wildfires that swept through southwestern Europe on Sunday as a heatwave showed no signs of abating as Britain poised to set new temperature records next week.
Blazes is raging in FranceGreece, Portugal and Spain destroyed thousands of hectares of land and forced thousands of residents and holidaymakers to flee.
It is the second heat wave to engulf parts of southwestern Europe in a matter of weeks. Scientists blame climate change and predict more frequent and intense extreme weather events such as heat waves and Drought.
Spanish Authorities have reported about 20 wildfires still out of control in different parts of the country, from the south to Galicia in the far northwest, where the fires have destroyed around 4,500 hectares of land.
The fires have already killed several emergency personnel since last week, most recently a firefighter who died Sunday night while battling a blaze in northwestern Spain.
In France, the situation has deteriorated in southwestern Gironde where firefighters have been battling to control wildfires that have devoured nearly 11,000 hectares (27,000 acres) since Tuesday.
“A thermal apocalypse”
Forest fires in France have forced more than 16,000 people, residents and tourists alike, to decamp. Seven emergency shelters have been set up for the evacuees.
The French Interior Ministry announced that it would send three additional firefighter planes, 200 firefighters and more trucks.
Météo France is forecasting 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 areas of the southwest, it will be a heat apocalypse,” meteorologist François Gourand told AFP.
France on Sunday placed 15 departments, mostly on its west coast, on red alert – the highest on the scale – while 51 were on high orange alert.
The chapel of a historic hospital in the south-east of the city of Lyon, the Grand Hôtel Dieu, offered refuge on Sunday to tourists including Jean-Marc, 51, visiting Alsace.
“We came back to admire the place, but we can’t leave, it’s too hot outside. We say a prayer in front of the fire! he joked.
The French cyclist Mikael Cherel, participating in the The 15 of the Tour de Francee arrange between Rodez and Carcassonne in the south of France on Sunday, describes “very, very difficult conditions”.
Video: Wildfires spread across Europe as temperatures hit 40C (The Independent)
Click to enlarge
“I have never experienced such a hot day on a bike. It really wasn’t a picnic.
In Spain, firefighters managed to stabilize a forest fire that ravaged 2,000 hectares of woods and bushes in the southern region of Andalusia, regional chief Juan Manuel Moreno said.
The blaze started on Friday in the Mijas mountain range inland from the southern coastal city of Malaga and prompted the evacuation of around 3,000 people.
About 2,000 people had since returned to their homes and now that the fire has stabilized, Moreno said the remaining evacuees could follow suit.
A firefighter died from burns on Sunday while battling a blaze in Spain’s northwestern province of Zamora, the regional government said.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez expressed his “condolences and affection” to the family and colleagues of the man.
“There are no words to thank those who fight the fires without rest for their immense work. RIP,” he added in a tweet.
Sanchez is due to travel to the hard-hit eastern region of Extremadura on Monday, where various fires have been raging for days.
Extreme heat also claimed the lives of two men in Spain over the weekend.
A 50-year-old man in Torrejon de Ardoz, just outside Madrid, died on Sunday after suffering heat stroke while out walking, local emergency services said.
And on Saturday, a 60-year-old street cleaner in Madrid died after suffering heat stroke while working the day before.
“Risk to life” in the UK
In Portugal, nearly the entire country remained on high alert for wildfires despite a slight drop in temperatures, after hitting a July record high of 47C on Thursday.
Only one major fire was burning in the north on Sunday.
The fires killed two people, injured around 60 and destroyed between 12,000 and 15,000 hectares of land in Portugal.
In the UKthe weather bureau issued a first-ever ‘red’ warning for extreme heat, warning there was a ‘risk to life’.
The Met Office said temperatures in the south of England could top 40C on Monday or Tuesday for the first time, leading some schools to say they will remain closed for next week.
Organizers of a four-day march in the Netherlands have canceled the first day of the mass event which was due to start on Tuesday due to extreme heat.
The mercury is expected to reach 38C in parts of the Netherlands on Tuesday.