Disasters & Accidents

Wildfires torch southern Europe, North Africa as deadly heat wave drags on

Madrid, Jul 17 (EFE).- Several wildfires continued to scorch parts of Spain, Portugal, France and Morocco on Sunday amid searing temperatures brought on by a heat wave.

Blazes have incinerated thousands of hectares of land in Spain, where weather warnings were in effect in a number of provinces that could see temperatures hit 42C (108F).

Many of the 3,000 people evacuated from an expansive fire in Mijas, above the Costa del Sol in southern Spain have been able to return home although the Red Cross has kept two temporary accommodation centers open, emergency services said.

A wildfire in northwestern Spain has torched 2,200 hectares (5,400 acres) of land, while two others in the southwestern region of Extremadura, including one in the vicinity of the Monfrague national park, an important bird habitat, have burned through a combined 6,000ha of vegetation.

Spanish authorities said some of the active blazes were intentionally started.

Health authorities have attributed 360 deaths to the current heat wave in Spain, the country’s second of the year. A 60-year-old Madrid street cleaner died after developing heat stroke on Friday, prompting city authorities to introduce flexible working hours to avoid the hottest times of the day.

Similarly, neighboring Portugal reported 238 excess deaths thought to be linked to the heat.

Some 900 firefighters were tackling four blazes in Portugal Sunday, although two were in the process of being brought under control.

The Iberian nation lowered its state of alert over the wildfire risk, which comes at a time of drought, although authorities said they would reevaluate in the coming days as temperatures are forecast to shoot up again.

Wildfires have devoured 41,000 ha of Portuguese land so far this year. That figure was 28,000 ha in all of 2021.

A fire in southwest France is encroaching on a campsite near the Pilat dunes, a popular tourist attraction outside La Teste-de-Buch, south of Bordeaux. The campsite’s 6,000 visitors were evacuated on Tuesday, when the fire first broke out. Another fire in the region remains active near the town of Landiras.

Wildfires in northern Morocco, which is also being stifled by the heat wave, prompted the evacuation of 1,400 families.

The United Kingdom was braced for a period of possibly unprecedented heat on Monday and Tuesday, prompting authorities to issue a rare red alert for parts of England, including London.

The red alert means that temperatures of up to 40C could pose a risk to life. EF


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