The Iberian Peninsula and southwestern France continue to be ravaged by devastating fires and sweltering temperatures, while further north, the UK has gone on red alert over fears of record-breaking temperatures.
This heat wave is the second in just a month. The proliferation of these phenomena is a direct consequence of global warming according to scientists, with greenhouse gas emissions increasing in intensity, duration and frequency.
Two dead in Portugal
In Portugal, affected for a week by scorching temperatures and a series of fires, the emergency services identified a dozen active fires on Friday night, which mobilized more than 900 firefighters.
According to Civil Protection, these fires killed two people, including the pilot of a water pump – a medium-sized plane, of the FireBoss type – that crashed in the early afternoon while fighting forest fires near Vila Nova de Foz Coa, in the north of the country. Guard region.
At the same time, also in the north of Portugal, one of the most worrying fires devastated the municipality of Baiao, a mountainous area in the Porto region, upstream of the Douro, the great river that crosses it.
“Every year this season there are fires here, but usually it’s not that bad.” María, a 71-year-old retired teacher who lives in the town of Eiriz, told AFP.
Since July 15, just over 30,000 hectares have burned in Portugal since the beginning of the year, the highest figure on this date since 2017, a year marked by violent forest fires that claimed the lives of a hundred people. Before dropping slightly on Friday, temperatures had reached 47 degrees in the north the day before, a record for a month of July in this country.
“A ball of fire” in France
In southwestern France, the firefighters’ fight continues this Saturday morning in Gironde to repair the two large forest fires that have razed more than 9,000 hectares since Tuesday in La Teste-de-Buch and Landiras, as we learned from the prefecture and firefighters.
In Teste-de-Buch, the progression of the fire has slowed down. burnt surfaces remain “stables”, with 3,150 hectares burned, the Gironde prefecture said in a press release posted on Twitter. the fire was “content but it is not fixed yet. We are not going to sing victory because we are still in the fighting phase”, The spokesman for the fire department, Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Mendousse, told AFP.
“Here there were tunnels of fire, you have to imagine a ball of fire”, Commander Laurent Dellac, speaking from La Teste-de-Buch, told AFP.
On the other front in Landiras and Guillos, the situation remained “always unfavourable”, according to him. The fire keeps growing, burning “more than 6,000 hectares, or more than 1,000 hectares since 10:00 p.m. last night”said the prefecture. a fire by which “the criminal thesis is privileged”according to the prosecution.
Overnight Friday through Saturday no additional evacuations were conducted on the two fires. Since the start of the fires, “almost 12,000” residents and vacationers had to leave the premises, the prefecture said in a statement. Five emergency accommodation centers and a medical-psychological emergency unit were also opened to support the victims.
On the banks of the Cazaux and Sanguinet ponds, the radioactive fallout from the smoke from the La Teste fire blackened the beaches, photographed by many people, who posted photos on social networks. There is not “no proven toxicity” and swimming “therefore it is not prohibited”, the municipality of Biscarosse stated on Facebook.
These fires, which have not caused fatalities, were triggered at the beginning of the heat wave episode that has affected France since Monday, mainly in the west and south. Météo-France keeps the Gironde under an orange “heat wave” watch, as do fifteen other departments.
More than 40 degrees in Spain
On the Spanish side, the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, said in a very “attentive to the evolution of the active fires that caused the evacuation of several municipalities”evoking “an extreme risk in the face of very high temperatures.”
The most worrying of these fires was the one in Extremadura, a border region of Portugal, where thousands of hectares have been burned in recent days. He knew a “unfavorable development” and threatened the Monfragüe National Park, a natural area protected for its biodiversity.
Another forest fire worried the authorities in Mijas, a few dozen kilometers from Malaga, in Andalusia (south), where 2,300 people from the surrounding communities were evicted, according to the emergency services.
At 4:20 p.m. the temperature was 43.9 degrees in the province of Badajoz, in the southwest, and most regions had mercury above 40 degrees.
Across the Mediterranean, one person has died in fires that devastated remote forested areas in northern Morocco, officials said.
Red alert in the United Kingdom: “For the first time we have forecasts that exceed 40°C”
This heat wave will spread further north beginning this weekend. In the UK, which first issued a red alert “extreme heat” for Monday and Tuesday, the population is preparing for temperatures potentially never before reached.
“We hoped that we would never get to this situation, but for the first time we have forecasts that exceed 40°C in the United Kingdom”, said Dr. Nikos Christidis, a climate scientist. The absolute temperature record in this country (38.7 degrees) dates back to 2019.
The NHS public health service has warned of a “jump” in heat-related hospitalisations.
Ireland and Belgium are also expecting a scorching start to the week with temperatures reaching 32 and 40 degrees respectively locally.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has also warned about poor air quality, an aspect “sadly omitted from these heat waves”, according to scientific director Lorenzo Labrador, who speaks of the “high concentrations of air pollutants and ozone levels”.