Disasters & Accidents

Fires, drought spread to large parts of Europe

Madrid/Paris, Aug 12 (EFE).- Fires are spreading to large parts of Europe as prolonged high temperatures, low rainfall and drought continued across the continent on Friday.

The latest data from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) indicates that Europe is experiencing extreme and prolonged hot and dry conditions and an increase in forest fire emissions in western France and the Iberian Peninsula.

According to CAMS, France has recorded the highest estimated carbon emissions from wildfires for June, July and August since 2003.

CAMS lead scientist Mark Parrington says that the very high fire danger indices that have been forecast for large parts of southern Europe mean that the scale and intensity of any fire may increase significantly, as well as the impacts on air quality.

This year’s particularly unique situation in the UK has led the government to officially declare a state of drought in parts of the southwest, south, south, central and east of England on Friday.

France, facing its own severe drought and record temperatures, has asked the European Union for assistance as it grapples with the worst wave of fires in years that have burned more than 50,000 hectares across its territory.

Germany, Greece, Poland, Romania, Austria and Sweden have offered help to France to reinforce the 10,000 French troops already fighting the fires, president Emmanuel Macron said on social media.

In Portugal, the latest report of the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests said that this year through to July 31, fires have burned 58,354 hectares of forest mass, an area 59% larger than the annual average of the previous 10 years.

That figure will still increase, as a fire that began on Saturday has already burned more than 10,000 hectares in the natural park of Serra da Estrela in central Portugal.

Italy is also going through a summer marked by drought, the worst in seven decades, which has dried up a large part of the Po basin, the country’s main river.

The extreme drought has triggered multiple fires. According to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), fires burned 32,921 hectares between June 15 and July 21, 4,000 more than in the same period last year. During the whole of 2021, Italy lost 159,437 hectares of woodland.

Italy has recorded five major fires a day since the start of the hottest-ever summer, with an increase of 0.98 degrees on average, and estimates that it will take about 15 years for these green areas to recover.

In Greece, although the temperature is at normal levels for the time of year with peaks reaching 35 degrees, strong wind gusts are hampering efforts to extinguish the dozens of fires that are recorded daily, although most of them are brought under control quickly.

Spain has also had one of its worst-ever years in terms of drought and fires; according to data from the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, in the first seven months of the year through to July, fires had burned more than 220,000 hectares. EFE


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