Wildfires rage in France and Spain as heat waves ravage Europe

  • Forest fires rage in southwestern France and Spain
  • Health officials report hundreds of heat-related deaths
  • UK emergency committee to meet after weather warning

PARIS/LISBON, July 16 (Reuters) – Wildfires raged across southwestern France and Spain on Saturday, forcing thousands of people to be evacuated from their homes as scorching summer temperatures alerted authorities in parts of Europe.

About 14,000 people had been evacuated from France’s Gironde region by Saturday afternoon as more than 1,200 firefighters battled to bring the flames under control, regional authorities said in a statement. Read more

“We have a fire that will continue to spread until it is stabilized,” said Vincent Ferrier, sub-prefect of Langon in Gironde, during a press conference.

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Forest fires have ravaged France in recent weeks, along with other European countries including Portugal and Spain, and more than 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) of land were on fire in the Gironde region Saturday, compared to 7,300 hectares on Friday.

During the last weather alert, 38 of the 96 French departments were put on “orange” alert, the inhabitants of these areas being invited to be vigilant. The heat wave in western France is expected to peak on Monday, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

In neighboring Spain, firefighters were battling a series of blazes on Saturday after days of unusually high temperatures of up to 45.7C (114F).

The nearly week-long heatwave caused 360 heat-related deaths, according to figures from the Carlos III Health Institute.

More than 3,000 people have been evacuated from their homes due to a major forest fire near Mijas, a town in the province of Malaga popular with tourists from northern Europe, the emergency services of the city said on Saturday. the region in a tweet.

Many were taken to shelter in a provincial sports center.

“Police drove down the road with their sirens on and everyone was told to leave. Leave. No instructions where to go,” said British pensioner John Pretty, 83.

“It’s scary…because you don’t know what’s going on,” said Jean-Marie Vandelanotte, 68, a Belgian resident.

Elsewhere in Spain, thick plumes of black smoke rose into the air near Casas de Miravete in the Extremadura region as helicopters dropped water on blazes that scorched 3,000 hectares, forcing the evacuation of two villages and threatened to reach Monfrague National Park.

Fires were also burning in the central region of Castile and Leon and in Galicia in the north.

There has been a respite for firefighters in Portugal, where temperatures plummeted across most of the country on Saturday after hitting around 40C (104F) in recent days.

“We had big fires and we don’t want them to reactivate again… We will keep extreme vigilance this weekend,” the commander of the Emergency and Civil Protection Authority told reporters. , André Fernandes.

A total of 39,550 hectares (98,000 acres) have been ravaged by wildfires from the start of the year until mid-June, more than triple the area razed by fires in the same period. last year, according to data from the Institute for Nature and Forest Conservation showed.

An area equivalent to nearly two-thirds of that burned in last week’s fires.

Portugal’s health ministry said 238 people died from the heatwave between July 7 and July 13, most of them elderly people with underlying conditions.


Across the Mediterranean from Europe, fires in Morocco have ravaged more than 2,000 hectares of forest in the northern regions of Larache, Ouazzane, Taza and Tetouane, killing at least one person, authorities said local.

More than 1,000 households were evacuated from their villages and planes carrying water helped put out most of the fires on Friday evening, although firefighters were still struggling to put out three hotspots near Larache.

In Britain, the National Meteorologist issued its first red ‘extreme heat’ warning for parts of England on Monday and Tuesday.

With potentially record high temperatures expected, the government’s emergency response committee was due to meet later on Saturday.

The highest recorded temperature in Britain was 38.7 C (101.7 F), recorded in Cambridge on July 25, 2019.

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Reporting by Layli Faroudi in Paris, Sergio Gonclaves in Lisbon, Mariano Valladolid and Jon Nazca in Malaga, Ahmed Eljechtimi in Rabat, and Jessica Jones and Michael Holden in London Writing by Helen Popper Editing by Frances Kerry and Christina Fincher

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