France battles huge wildfires, Britain bakes in record heat wave

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  • Wildfires burn forests in Gironde, south-west France
  • UK temperatures top 40C for first time
  • Germany and Belgium prepare for possible record temperatures
  • More than 30 wildfires are ravaging parts of Spain
  • Portugal has more than 1,000 additional deaths from heatwave

LONDON/PARIS, July 19 (Reuters) – Firefighters in southwestern France battled to contain huge wildfires on Tuesday and Britain recorded its highest ever temperature, while Portugal has reported more than 1,000 heatwave-related deaths as Europe burns.

Southern and western Germany and Belgium also braced for potentially record high temperatures as the heat wave, which scientists attribute to climate change, spread north and east.

Numerous forest fires have been reported in Italy. One of the biggest fires broke out Monday night in the hills of Massarosa in Tuscany, and was still raging Tuesday afternoon.

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“The fire continues to devour the woods in a frightening way because of the wind,” Tuscan Governor Eugenio Giani said, noting that 365 hectares (900 acres) of land had been destroyed.

Fires have also been reported in woods near Rome, as well as on the shores of Lake Orta north of Milan and near the northeastern city of Trieste.

A forest fire fueled by strong winds raged in a mountainous area near homes on the outskirts of Athens, prompting authorities to order the evacuation of at least one area.

A temperature of over 40C (104F) has been tentatively recorded for the first time in Britain, the Met Office said, and authorities have placed Britain on a “national emergency” in due to unprecedented temperatures.

Train routes from London to the country’s east and west coast were canceled and normally busy city centers appeared quiet. Network Rail tweeted images showing bends and bends in the tracks.

To the east of the capital, a large fire engulfed homes in the village of Wennington, with flames tearing through nearby fields and approaching a historic church. Vast expanses of grass around the capital were on fire.

“NON-STABILIZED” LIGHTS

In southwestern France, the Gironde wine region has seen its biggest wildfires in more than 30 years and authorities say a man has been arrested on suspicion of arson.

The fires have spread over 19,300 hectares (about 75 square miles) in the Bordeaux countryside since July 12, forcing 34,000 people to evacuate their homes.

About 2,000 firefighters, supported by eight water bomber planes, were battling the blazes.

With human-caused climate change triggering droughts, the number of extreme wildfires is expected to increase by 30% over the next 28 years, according to a United Nations report from February 2022.

“We are seeing more frequent heat waves, and the heat waves are hotter than they would have been without climate change,” Friederike Otto, senior lecturer in climate science at the Institute, told Reuters. Imperial College London.

The health impact of the heat wave was the focus of attention, with particular attention paid to the elderly and vulnerable.

The head of Portugal’s DGS health authority, Graça Freitas, told Reuters that 1,063 additional heatwave deaths, above normal levels, were recorded from July 7 to 18.

“Portugal … is among the regions of the globe that could be (more) affected by extreme heat,” Freitas said. “We need to be increasingly prepared for periods of high temperatures.”

Carlos Antunes, a researcher at the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Science, said data showed older people were most likely to die from heatwaves.

Hot nighttime temperatures are also hampering firefighting interventions across Europe and worsening health conditions, as nighttime hours do not allow for cooling, experts said on Tuesday. Read more

FLAMES AND SMOKE

In Italy, temperatures are expected to hit 40C in parts of the north and center this week, as well as the southern heel of the Italian boot, Puglia and the islands of Sardinia and Sicily.

Five cities have been placed on maximum red alert due to Tuesday’s heat wave. The alert, which warns of serious weather-related health risks, will cover nine cities on Wednesday, rising to 14 on Thursday, including several of Italy’s largest metropolitan areas such as Rome, Milan and Florence.

Although mercury returned to more normal summer levels in Spain and Portugal, firefighters in both countries were still battling multiple blazes.

More than 30 wildfires have continued to ravage parts of Spain, with authorities paying particular attention to four blazes in Castile and Leon and Galicia.

In Losacio, in the northwest of Zamora province, where two people died and three were seriously injured, more than 6,000 people in 32 villages were evacuated.

So far this year, 70,000 hectares (173,000 acres) have been burned in Spain, around double the average for the past decade, according to official data released ahead of the heatwave.

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Additional reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian in London, Catarina Demony in Lisbon, Dominique Vidalon in Paris and Renee Maltezou in Athens, Aleksandar Vasovic in Belgrade, Crispian Balmer in Rome, Bart Biesemans in Belgium; Editing by Nick Macfie, Gareth Jones, Bernadette Baum, Alexandra Hudson and Richard Chang

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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