by Bob Edme and John Leicester
LA TESTE-DE-BUCH, France ( Associated Press) – A heat wave sweeping Europe engulfed Britain on Monday and sparked fierce wildfires in Spain and France, which evacuated thousands and water-bombed planes and firefighters. Inspired to fight the flames in Tinder. dry forest.
Two people were killed in a fire in Spain that its prime minister linked to global warming, saying “climate change kills.”
The toll comes on top of hundreds of heat-related deaths reported in the Iberian Peninsula, as high temperatures have gripped the continent in recent days and wildfires have spread from Portugal to the Balkans. Some regions, including northern Italy, are also experiencing prolonged drought. Climate change makes such deadly extremes rare – and heat waves have also hit places like Britain, which brace for potentially record-breaking temperatures.
Hot weather was expected to be so severe in the UK this week that train operators warned it could damage rail and some schools have installed wading pools to help children cool off.
In France, heat records were broken and firefighting was complicated by warm winds blowing through the country’s southwest.
“The fire is literally exploding,” said regional fire service chief Mark Vermeulen, who shattered tree trunks as flames, sending embers burning into the air and the fire spread further.
“We are facing extreme and extraordinary circumstances,” he said.
Authorities evacuated more cities, and moved another 14,900 people from areas that could find themselves in the path of fires and suffocating smoke. Altogether more than 31,000 people in the Gironde region have been forced from their homes and summer vacation spots since the forest fires on July 12.
The Interior Ministry said on Sunday night that three additional planes were dispatched to join the six other planes that were running repeatedly through thick clouds of smoke, filtering seawater and fighting the fires.
More than 200 reinforcements were led to join 1,500 firefighters trying to douse the fire in Gironde, where the flames were raging near prized vineyards and in the Arcachon Marine Basin famous for its oysters and beaches. The smoke had spread.
Meanwhile, Spain reported the second death in its own fire in two days. The body of a 69-year-old sheep farmer was found on Monday in the same mountainous area where a 62-year-old firefighter had died a day earlier when he burst into flames in northwestern Zamora province. More than 30 wildfires around Spain have forced thousands of people to evacuate and darkened 220 square kilometers (85 sq mi) of forest and scrub.
A frightening, close-up view of passengers on a train en route to Zamora caught fire when their train stopped in the countryside. Video of the unscheduled – and unnecessary – stop shows about a dozen passengers in a railcar alert as they watch the encroachment flames out windows on both sides of the track.
Climate scientists say climate change makes heat waves more intense, more frequent and longer – and combined with drought makes it harder to fight wildfires. He says climate change will make the weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.
“Climate change kills,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Monday during a visit to the Extremadura region, the site of three major blazes. “It kills people, it kills our ecosystems and biodiversity.”
Spain’s Ecological Transition Minister Teresa Ribera described her country as “literally on fire” while attending talks on climate change in Berlin.
She warned of “terrible prospects still for the coming days” – after more than 10 days of temperatures in excess of 40 °C (104 °F), only moderately cold at night.
At least 748 heat-related deaths have been reported in a heat wave in Spain and neighboring Portugal, where temperatures reached 47 degrees Celsius (117 F) earlier this month.
The heat wave in Spain was forecast to subside on Tuesday, but on Wednesday there will be respite from rising temperatures, particularly in the arid western Extremadura region.
In Britain, officials have issued an extreme heat warning for the first time, and the Weather Service forecast that the record high of 38.7 C (101.7 F) set in 2019 could be broken.
“Forty-one cards are not closed,” said Met Office CEO Penelope Andersby. “We also have some 43 in the model, but we’re hoping it won’t be as high.”
France’s often temperate Brittany region swept the port of Brest with a record 39.3 C (102.7 F) degrees, surpassing the highest level of 35.1 degrees Celsius since September 2003, the French weather service Meteo-France said.
Regional records in France were broken in more than a dozen cities, as the weather service said Monday was “the hottest day of this heat wave”.
The Balkan region had predicted its worst summer this weekend, but has already seen sporadic wildfires.
Slovenian officials said early Monday that firefighters had put out a blaze. Croatia sent a water-dropping plane to help last week after battling wildfires of its own along the Adriatic Sea. The fire in Sibenik forced some people to evacuate their homes but it was later put out.
In Portugal, colder weather on Monday helped firefighters make progress. More than 600 firefighters took part in four major fires in northern Portugal.
Leicester reported from Le Peque. Associated Press journalists Danica Kirka and Jill Lawless in London, Geir Moulson in Berlin, Raquel Redondo in Madrid, Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Portugal and Jovana Geck from Belgrade, Serbia contributed.
Follow Associated Press’s climate coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment