Disasters & Accidents

Thermometers shoot up all across Europe

Madrid, Jul 14 (EFE).- The heat wave that is broiling the Mediterranean basin from Portugal to Turkey is now threatening to spread into Central and Northern Europe, bringing the dangers of forest fires and health problems for the local populace.

An isolated high-level depression over Spain and a static anticyclone, strengthened by the arrival of hot air from Africa, are creating the combination of factors that, as Spain’s Aemet state-run weather agency said, are raising temperatures on the Iberian Peninsula to record levels.

The heat wave is cooking Spain and Portugal and raising the potential for numerous wildfires, a situation that is also affecting France, Italy, Greece and Turkey and which – according to weather advisories – in the coming days could move over Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom and even as far north as southern Scandanavia, if the proper conditions prevail.

In the case of Spain, Aemet’s most recent forecast is for the heat that has resulted in red alerts being declared in five of the country’s regions – Andalusia, Castille and Leon, Extremadura, Castille-La Mancha and Galicia – to last until Monday.

As the public waits to see how the situation evolves, Aemet called Thursday “the worst day” so far, with temperatures rising to 45 C (113 F) in the plain along the Guadiana River separating Spain and Portugal, 44 C in the Sevilla region, 43 C in northern Caceres and 42 C in Madrid.

In addition, forest fires already burning in various parts of the country are being strengthened by the hot and dry conditions, especially in the provinces of Salamanca and Caceres.

The excessive heat could also be fatal, with 43 heat-related deaths being tallied on Sunday and Monday, July 10-11 – when the second big summer heat wave formally began – according to the Health Ministry’s Carlos III Health Institute.

Figures for the period since then are not yet available.

In Portugal, the red alert is also affecting a large portion of the country, with Prime Minister Antonio Acosta on Thursday confirming that the government has extended the contingency situation until next Sunday, after also declaring Thursday to be the “most serious day” so far due to the rising temps, higher winds and low humidity.

Although more than 3,000 firefighters are battling blazes that have already burned some 10,000 hectares (about 25,000 acres) in the interior of the country, especially in the central Leiria region, the Portuguese government has been criticized for not deploying more resources and personnel to deal with the problem.

Costa defended the government’s actions, saying that “the resources are not limited (only) within Portugal, they are limited everywhere,” adding that “the answer is not more resources, but exercising greater caution” in terms of public awareness.

In France, the two wildfires in the department of Gironde, the capital of which is Bordeaux, which have burned more than 4,000 hectares and forced the evacuation of 6,500 people, on Thursday forced authorities to evacuate another 4,000 as a “preventive measure” from the town of Cazaux.

About 1,000 firefighters, 100 vehicles and half a dozen aircraft are working on the two blazes – in Landiras and in La Teste-de-Buch – which are devastating the area, one of the seven orange alert zones that have been declared in southern France due to the heat.

The French weather services, which are expecting the heat to last between eight and 10 days, peaking between next Saturday and Tuesday, on Thursday forecast maximum temperatures of 38 C (100 F) in Bordeaux and 40 C in Mont-de-Marsan, in the neighboring Landas region.

High temps are also affecting the eastern Mediterranean and, in the case of Turkey, authorities there on Thursday afternoon announced that several forest fires had been brought under control along the Aegean coast, where several thousand people had to be evacuated.

Authorities deployed seven aircraft, 14 helicopters and 103 firetrucks, along with military units, to control the fires in the Mugla region, the hardest-hit zone in Turkey, while another fire in the Urla district near Smyrna, the country’s third-largest city, was brought under control by firefighters and forestry personnel.

EFE ppm/acm/bp

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