Southern Europe plagued by fires

Southern Europe in the grip of fires

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From Portugal to Greece, fires raged across southern Europe on Thursday, battered by a suffocating heat wave that is expected to peak in the Iberian Peninsula.

From Portugal to Greece, fires raged across southern Europe on Thursday, battered by a suffocating heat wave that peaked at 45 degrees on the Iberian Peninsula for the second day in a row.

< p>In Greece, a blaze battle left two dead on Wednesday when a helicopter crashed into the sea while trying to put out a forest fire on the island of Samos, rangers said Thursday. coasts.

In Portugal, whose center has been ravaged for a week by fires fanned by the scorching heat, more than 2,000 firefighters were still mobilized to fight in particular against four homes still active across the country.

Thursday will undoubtedly be “the most serious day” because of “the rise in temperatures” and the “strengthening of the east wind” and “the drop in the level of humidity”, had warned the Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa.

According to the latest report from Portuguese civil protection, 860 people were evacuated and around 60 houses were destroyed or damaged. In one week, the fires have ravaged around 13,500 hectares, according to data available on the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) website.

In France, high temperatures also complicated the task of firefighters fighting since Tuesday in Gironde (southwest) against two forest fires, which have already burned 4,200 hectares.

Near the tourist dune of Pilat, whose access has been closed “until further notice”, the changing wind led to the evacuation of 4,000 inhabitants on Thursday afternoon, not far from the seaside resort of Arcachon.

For fear of other fires starting, the launches of fireworks, private or public, which traditionally take place on the occasion of the national holiday of July 14, have been prohibited until Monday evening in Gironde and in the neighboring department of Landes.

In Spain, the most worrying fire has already devastated at least 4,000 hectares in a mountainous area straddling the regions of Extremadura and Castile and Leon, no away from Portugal.

Several smaller fires have broken out in Italy or Croatia, according to the European Copernicus system.

Suffocating temperatures

In the Iberian Peninsula, which has been facing since several days of suffocating temperatures, the thermometer reached extreme values ​​for the second consecutive day, with a peak of 45°C recorded at 5:00 p.m. (3:00 p.m. GMT) near Avila, in the center-west.

< p>On Wednesday, a maximum of 45.6°C had been recorded in Andalusia (south), according to the meteorological agency, which placed almost the entire country on alert, with a maximum level of vigilance for several central regions. , south and west.

In Portugal, a peak of 46.3°C was even recorded on Wednesday in the center of the country.

In France, the authorities have placed 11 departments on heat wave vigilance, with peaks of 39 or 40 degrees still expected in places on Friday, from the plains of the South-West to Provence (south-east).

The intensity of this second heat wave in a month in the country, which should last until the middle of next week, could be “equivalent” to the deadly heat wave of August 2003 (with nearly 19,500 deaths in France) , noted Matthieu Sorel, climatologist at Météo-France.

The fire chief, Grégory Allione, called for urgent reinforcement of the French firefighting system, threatened with being overwhelmed by the global warming.

“We will have to equip ourselves even more” because the device could crack “if we were to be subjected to several large outbreaks of fire at the same time on the territory”, he told AFP.

This intense heat wave is expected to affect other parts of western or central Europe in the coming days, such as the United Kingdom, where the weather agency (Met Office) expects temperatures above 35 degrees from of Sunday.

In this context, the mayor of London Sadiq Khan decreed an emergency plan “extreme temperatures” to come to the aid of the homeless, including by distributing them water and sunscreen while the TUC trade union federation has called for a ban on working if the indoor temperature exceeds 30 degrees.

This heat wave is the second in barely a month in Europe. 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.