As a heatwave creeps north, southern Europe battles wildfires

On Sunday evening, while thousands of hectares burned throughout Galicia, Castille and Leon, Catalonia, Extremadura, and Andalusia, Spain lamented the loss of a fireman in the province of Zamora in the country’s northwest. As a result, nearly the entire nation is threatened by significant fire danger.

In Catalonia’s El Pont de Vilomara, evacuees gathered in front of a civic center, including 69-year-old retiree Onofre Munoz, who stated that his home and van had been completely damaged.

“We purchased the van when I retired, which is now completely burnt. So we have absolutely nothing,” he stated.

“Many of our home’s windows exploded, allowing a huge fire to enter.” We realized it yesterday afternoon when we received photographs showing that everything had burned.

According to official figures, more than 70,000 hectares have burned in Spain this year, making it the worst year in the last decade. A large wildfire in Sierra de la Culebra, Castille, and Leon, destroyed over 30,000 hectares the previous month.

In addition to the death of a firefighter on Sunday, Spain has confirmed a second fatality caused by a wildfire. A 69-year-old man was discovered dead in a charred area in Ferreruela on Monday, according to rescue personnel. According to local media, it was a farmer.

According to the Portuguese Institute of Meteorology, temperatures dipped during the weekend in Portugal, but the risk of wildfires remained relatively high across most of the nation (IPMA).

Authorities reported that more than 1,000 firefighters, supported by 285 vehicles and 14 aircraft, were combating nine active wildfires, primarily in the country’s northern areas.

State of emergency

Belgium and Germany were among the nations that anticipated experiencing the heatwave in the coming days.

As wildfires continue to grow in the Gironde area of southwestern France, firefighters struggle to limit a tactical blaze in Louchats. — Reuters

On Monday, the EU said it was closely watching wildfires blazing in southern member states and had dispatched a firefighting aircraft to Slovenia over the weekend, in addition to recent deployments to France and Portugal.

Balazs Ujvari, speaking during a press briefing, said, “We continue to monitor the situation during this record heatwave and will continue to mobilize support as necessary.”

The EU was also giving satellite imagery to France, he added. Separately, the Commission said in a report that over half of the bloc’s area is threatened by drought.

Temperatures were expected to reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time on Monday, prompting train companies to cancel services, schools to close early, and ministries to warn the people to stay indoors.

The government has declared a “national emergency” as temperatures on Monday and Tuesday are expected to exceed the 38.7C (102F) recorded at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden in 2019.

Dr. Nikos Christidis, a climate attribution scientist at the Met Office, said, “We had hoped to avoid this situation, but for the first time, we are projecting temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius in the UK.”

“Climate change has already affected the probability of temperature extremes in the United Kingdom. For example, he said it is ten times more likely that the United Kingdom will have 40°C days under the current climate than in a natural environment untouched by human activity.

Local authorities reported on Monday that the fires had damaged 14,800 hectares (37,000 acres) in the Gironde area of southwestern France. Over 14,000 individuals have been evacuated from the area. France has issued red alerts, the highest level, for several locations, urging citizens to “be particularly vigilant.”

In various places of Italy, where smaller fires have raged in recent days, forecasts anticipate temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius in the coming days.

Switzerland was also affected by the heatwave. The operator of the Beznau nuclear facility, Axpo, announced on Monday that it was forced to reduce output so as not to overheat the Aare river, from which the reactor takes its cooling water.

The Swiss authorities issued a heat advisory, citing widespread danger with temperatures exceeding 36 degrees Celsius in certain areas (96.8F).