Southern Europe plagued by fires

Southern Europe in the grip of fires

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From Portugal to Greece, fires raged across southern Europe on Thursday, battered by a suffocating heat wave that is expected to peak in the Iberian Peninsula.

In Greece, a battle against the flames left two dead on Wednesday when a helicopter crashed into the sea while trying to put out a forest fire on the island of Samos, the authorities announced on Thursday. coast guard.

Portugal, whose center has been ravaged by fires since last Thursday, experienced 200 fire starts on Wednesday, the highest figure since the start of this heat wave.

“Today is the day when we have to be the most careful,” warned Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa. More than 2,000 firefighters are still mobilized across the country to fight in particular against four major outbreaks still active from north to south.

“Today we will experience the most serious day in terms of rising temperatures, a strengthening of the easterly wind” which can fan the flames “and the drop in the level of humidity”, continued Mr. Costa.

According to the latest report from the Portuguese Civil Protection, these fires caused one death and around sixty injuries.

Fireworks prohibited

In France, high temperatures also complicated the task of firefighters fighting since Tuesday in Gironde (south-west) against two forest fires which have already burned nearly 4,000 hectares, in particular near the very touristy Dune du Pilat, access to which has been closed. closed “until further notice”.

For fear of other fire starts, the launches of fireworks, private or public, which traditionally take place at the occasion of the national holiday of July 14 have been banned until Monday evening in Gironde and in the neighboring department of Landes.

In Spain, the most worrying fire has already devastated at least 4,000 hectares in a mountainous area straddling the regions of Extremadura and Castile and Leon, not far from Portugal.

Several fires of lesser importance have declared themselves in Italy or Croatia, according to the European Copernicus system.

Heat peak

After several days of suffocating temperatures, the Iberian Peninsula should experience the peak of this heat wave on Thursday, which should last until Sunday.

In Spain, where a maximum of 45.6°C was recorded on Wednesday in Andalusia, the weather agency expects “Thursday to be the hottest day of this heat wave episode”. Almost the entire country remained on high alert, with several central, southern and western regions at the highest level.

Predictions are similar in Portugal, where 46.3° C were recorded on Wednesday in the center of the country.

In France, this heat wave episode could push the mercury up to 40°C on Thursday in the Rhône valley and the south-west.

The intensity of this second heat wave in a month in the country, which should last until the middle of next week, could be “equivalent” to the deadly heat wave of August 2003 (with nearly 19,500 deaths in France) , noted Matthieu Sorel, climatologist at Météo-France.

The boss of the firefighters, Grégory Allione, called for an urgent reinforcement of the French firefighting system, threatened with being overwhelmed by the global warming.

“We will have to equip ourselves even more”, because the device could crack “if we were to be subjected to several large fire starts at the same time on the territory”, he told AFP.

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This intense heat wave is expected to affect other parts of western or central Europe in the coming days, such as the United Kingdom, where the weather agency (Met Office) expects temperatures above 35 degrees in from Sunday.

In this context, the mayor of London Sadiq Khan decreed an emergency plan “extreme temperatures” to come to the aid of the homeless, including by distributing them water and sunscreen while the TUC trade union federation has called for a ban on working if the indoor temperature exceeds 30 degrees.

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