PARIS ( Associated Press) – Firefighters in France and Spain battled wildfires out of control on Sunday as Europe was hit by an unusually extreme heat wave that officials in Madrid blamed for hundreds of deaths.
Nearly 14,000 people have been evacuated in southwestern France after two massive fires raged in pine forests over the past six days. In images shared by firefighters, water-dropping planes zig-zag the area near Bordeaux as flames engulfed the edge of a farm field, and smoke sang over the horizon above a group of trees. covered up.
In Spain, firefighters backed by military brigades tried to stamp out more than 30 fires that consumed forests across the country. Spain’s national defense department said “most” of its firefighters were deployed to reach the flames, many of them in rough, mountainous areas that are difficult for ground crews to reach.
The European Union has started fire season in parts of Europe earlier this year than usual after a dry, hot spring to climate change. Some countries are also experiencing prolonged drought, while many are scorching by heat waves.
There have been no fire deaths in France or Spain so far. A pilot was killed when a firefighter plane crashed in Portugal on Friday.
But as temperatures remained unusually high, heat-related deaths increased. In Spain’s second heat wave, several regions have seen repeated 43 °C (109 °F) peaks. According to Spain’s Carlos III Institute, which records temperature-related deaths daily, 360 deaths were attributed to high temperatures from July 10 to 15. This was compared to 27 temperature-related deaths in the past six days.
The death of a street cleaner after suffering heat stroke at work prompted Madrid’s town hall to give its street cleaner the option of working in the evening.
Almost all of Spain was on alert for high temperatures for another day on Sunday, while nearly half of France was on a heat wave warning, where scorching temperatures were expected to climb higher on Monday. In 2003, the French government stepped up efforts to protect people in nursing homes, the homeless and other vulnerable populations after a severe heat wave and poor planning killed nearly 15,000 people, especially among the elderly.
Meanwhile, a fire at La Teste-de-Bouch has forced 10,000 people to flee, when many flock to the nearby Atlantic Coast region for vacation. And officials closed access to the Doon du Pilat, Europe’s highest sand dune.
The Gironde regional government said on Sunday afternoon that “the situation remains very unfavorable” due to strong winds that helped fan further flare ups throughout the night.
“Emergency services are prioritizing protecting the population, preserving vulnerable areas and limiting the progress of the fire,” officials said, when they may be able to bring it under control.
A second fire near the town of Landiras has forced authorities to evacuate 4,100 people this week. Officials said a two-kilometer (1.2-mile) stretch of white sand dumping one flank has been brought under control. However, another flank remains uncontrolled.
Those who were forced to flee shared concerns about their abandoned homes with local media, and local officials organized special trips to bring some of the pets they hurried to safety. I had left.
In total, the two fires have burned over 100 square kilometers (40 sq mi) of land.
Emergency officials warned that high temperatures and winds on Sunday and Monday would complicate efforts to prevent the fire from spreading further.
“We have to be very prudent and very polite, because the day will be very hot. We have no favorable weather window,” regional fire officer Eric Florensen said on Radio France-Blue on Sunday.
Some of the most worrying blazes in Spain are concentrated in the western regions of Extremadura and Castilla y León. Images of plumes of black smoke rising above wooded hillsides baked under the sun have become common in many sparsely populated rural areas.
Drought conditions in the Iberian Peninsula have made it particularly susceptible to wildfires. The Department of National Security said that since last October, Spain has received 25% less rain than normal – and some areas have received 75% less rain than normal.
While some fires are caused by lightning strikes and others are the result of human negligence, a fire that broke out in a nature reserve in Extremadura, called La Garganta de los Infiranos, or “The Throat of Hell”, was the result of suspected to be. arson, regional officials said.
Firefighters have not been able to stop the fire near the town of Casares that threatens Monfrague National Park and has prevented 200 people from returning to their homes. Another fire in southern Spain near the city of Málaga has forced the evacuation of 2,500 people.
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s office announced he would travel to Extremadura on Monday to visit some of the hardest-hit regions.
Hungary, Croatia and the Greek island of Crete have also battled wildfires this week, as have happened in Morocco and California. Italy is in the midst of an early summer heat wave, the worst drought to its north in 70 years, as well as conditions associated with the recent disaster, when a large part of the Marmolada glacier loosened, killing many pedestrians .
The scorching sun has reached northern Europe. An annual four-day walking event in the Dutch city of Nijmegen announced on Sunday that it would cancel the first day scheduled for Tuesday, when temperatures are expected to reach around 39 °C (102 °F).
Britain’s weather agency has issued its first “red warning” of extreme heat for Monday and Tuesday, when temperatures in southern England could reach 40 C (104 F) for the first time.
College of Paramedics Chief Executive Tracy Nichols warned Sunday that the “severe heat” could “ultimately end in deaths.