Thousands evacuated as severe heat wave stifles swathes of Europe

Madrid, Jul 15 (EFE).- Wildfires raging in several countries across Europe on Friday have forced the evacuation of thousands of people as a blistering heat wave sinks its teeth into the region.

The World Meteorological Organization’s Lorenzo Labrador warned Friday that the fires caused by record temperatures would lead to a noticeable deterioration in air quality.

In Spain, where firefighters have been tackling wildfires across the country all week, two huge blazes were tearing through parts of the northwestern province of Salamanca, forcing hundreds of people to evacuate their homes.

Meanwhile a fire in the Sierra de la Culebra de Zamora, in Castile and Leon, has been raging for over a month and burnt 25,000 hectares of land in one of Europe’s most important wolf habitats.

While firefighters have yet to extinguish the blaze, it has at least been brought under control, officials said.

Forest fires have also been reported in Albacete, in Castile-La Mancha in the southeast, as well as in Cadiz, in the southwest, and in Extremadura, near the Portuguese border, where a blaze is skirting the Monfragüe national park, which is home to colonies of rare birds.

Firefighters in neighboring France were also struggling to bring two blazes near Bordeaux that have been raging since Tuesday under control.

The fires have destroyed 7,300 hectares of forest and forced the evacuations of about 10,000 people, including thousands of tourists holidaying in campsites in the area.

In Portugal, a red alert is in place for the north and center of the country, where more than 2,000 troops are fighting fires fueled by high temperatures, wind and prolonged drought.

There were dozens of active blazes on Friday, although the bulk of firefighting efforts are concentrated in Leiria, Viana do Castelo and the region of Porto.

In the last week, the flames have devoured more than 10,000 hectares of forest, bringing the total burnt area to 30,000 hectares, more than the 28,000 that were destroyed throughout 2021.

According to the Portuguese Institute of the Sea and Atmosphere, the country broke a temperature record on Tuesday, with a high of 44C (111F) in Almeirim, about 100 kilometers north of Lisbon.

The government has extended a “state of contingency” that has been in place all week until Sunday due to the scorching conditions, with more high temperatures and winds expected during the weekend.

Meteorological officials in the United Kingdom, meanwhile, have declared a red extreme heat warning for the first time for parts of England, which is expected to see unprecedented sweltering temperatures as high as 40C (104F) early next week.

The red warning, which entails a risk to life and other health effects for the general population rather than just the most vulnerable, affects London and parts of central England. EFE


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