Fires persist in southwestern Europe and the UK is on high alert

Madrid | Firefighters continued their desperate battle against multiple fires in France and the Iberian Peninsula on Friday, as temperatures remained stifling, while in the far north, the United Kingdom was on red alert and feared to exceed 40 degrees next week.

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This heat wave is the second in barely a month. The proliferation of these phenomena is a direct result of global warming according to scientists, with greenhouse gas emissions increasing in intensity, duration and frequency.

Rising temperatures in two fires have burned 7,700 hectares since Tuesday in southwest France, where the “criminal thesis” is now “highlighted”. Another declared itself near the very touristy Dune du Pilat, in the same area.

“Here, there were tunnels of fire, you have to imagine a ball of fire,” captain Laurent Delac told AFP, speaking from La Test du Buch.

And these fires, which mobilized a thousand firefighters, since Tuesday, resulted in the evacuation of 11 thousand people.

“I’ve never seen it and it seems post-apocalyptic, really, it’s falling everywhere, on cars, it’s worrying,” said Thursday Karen, a Cazaux resident, prior to the preemptive evacuation order for this village near the dunes. Do Pilate.

Another fire broke out on Thursday afternoon due to a train that would have generated sparks, and spread over 1,205 hectares (without necessarily consuming it) near Avignon, in the southeast, before it was repaired.

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37 degrees at 7 am in Spain

In Portugal, more than 2,000 firefighters were still hard at work trying to beat four major outbreaks in the north and center.

According to the Civil Protection, these fires left one dead and about 60 injured.

Since the start of 2022, smoke has erupted in Portugal just over 30,000 hectares, the highest number on July 15 since 2017, a year marked by deadly forest fires that killed nearly 100 people.

On the Spanish side, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a tweet on Twitter that he is “very keen on the development of active fires that have led to the evacuation of many municipalities”, which raises “a grave danger in the face of very high temperatures”.

The fires of most concern were those of Extremadura, a border region of Portugal, where thousands of hectares have burned in recent days. This was experiencing “unfavorable development” and threatened Monfragüe National Park, a protected natural area for its biodiversity.

The emergency services said that another forest fire alarmed the authorities in Mingas, a few dozen kilometers from Malaga, in Andalusia (south), where 2,300 people were evicted from neighboring communities.

Moroccan authorities said that while on the other side of the Mediterranean, a person died in fires that engulfed remote forests in northern Morocco.

If the heat does not leave a respite for the Spaniards, they will have to wait until the beginning of next week to experience slightly milder temperatures.

At 4:20 pm (2:20 pm GMT), the temperature was 43.9 degrees in the province of Badajoz (southwest) and the mercury in most areas was above 40 degrees.

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And in Portugal, Thursday, the temperature reached 47 degrees in the north, which is a record for the month of July in this country, and on Friday the maximum should drop to 41 degrees.

UK red alert

In France, on the contrary, temperatures, which reached 37/38 degrees in the southwest and the Rhone valley on Thursday, are supposed to rise to 38/40 degrees south of the Bordeaux-Lyon line.

This heat wave will extend north starting this weekend.

In the UK, which first issued a red “extremely hot” alert for Monday and Tuesday, people are bracing for potentially unprecedented temperatures.

“We wish we’d never reached this position, but for the first time we have a forecast above 40°C in the UK,” said Dr Nikos Christidis, a climate scientist at the Met Office. The absolute temperature record in this country (38.7 degrees) goes back to 2019.

The NHS has warned of a ‘leap’ in heat-related hospitals while rail companies have not ruled out unexpected heat-related train cancellations.

Ireland and Belgium are also expecting a strong start to the week with the mercury rising to 32 and 38 degrees respectively locally.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has also warned of poor air quality, an aspect that has been “unfortunately omitted from these heat waves,” according to science officer Lorenzo Labrador, who notes “high concentrations of pollutants in the atmosphere and ozone levels.”

Forest fires in Morocco: one dead, 1,000 families evacuated

A person has died in violent fires that have swept through remote forested areas in northern Morocco since Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of 1,000 families, authorities told AFP on Friday.

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A press release issued by the authorities stated that “the body of a person with multiple burns was found” in one of the fires in the Larache region.

At least 1,600 hectares of forest massifs have been destroyed in the states of Larache, Ouazzane, Tetouan and Taza, northern Morocco, according to a provisional assessment.

The rapid development of flames, fanned by the “Sharqi”, a hot wind coming from the desert, forced 1,100 families to evacuate about fifteen douars (villages) in the scorched areas of Larache. In addition, about 645 residents were evacuated in the governorates of Taza and Tetouan.

In Tetouan, near the port of Tangiers, about sixty houses were burnt and nearly one hundred head of livestock died.

In addition to the Canadian Army’s four water-bombers, hundreds of Civil Protection, Water, Forest, Royal Armed Forces and Gendarmerie forces, with the help of local authorities and volunteers, were mobilized to stem the spread of the fire. Reinforcements were sent to the scene.

Another epidemic outbreak has been brought under control in the Larache governorate, according to local authorities.

Several days ago, Morocco was exposed to a heat wave, with temperatures approaching 45 degrees Celsius, in the context of exceptional drought and water stress.

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