Part of Western Europe continues to feel the effects of a heat wave on Saturday, July 16, which caused devastating wildfires and which forecasters predict could break several temperature records early next week.
In the south-west of France, the mobilization of firefighters is not weakening to stop the fires, particularly in Gironde, where more than 9,000 hectares of forest have gone up in smoke since Tuesday, in a context of generalized heat wave where temperatures could reach 40°C locally, according to Météo-France.
In the town of La Teste-de-Buch, the efforts made have slowed the progression of the fire. “We are still, and it is a satisfaction, at 3,150 hectares burned, but the fire is still not under control”, declared to the press the sub-prefect of Arcachon Ronan Leaustic, who greeted the ” enormous intensity and the mobilization “of the firefighters in the night” to keep this perimeter”. These fires, which mobilize a thousand firefighters, have since Tuesday led to the evacuation of ten thousand people.
Between 12,000 and 15,000 hectares burned in Portugal
Portugal was experiencing a relative calm, with only one major fire still active on Saturday, in the north of the country, between the municipalities of Baião and Amarante. In the middle of the day, the fire was progressing there at least on one front, on the side of a wooded hill in this hilly region located upstream of the Douro River, noted journalists from Agence France-Presse.
The day before, a water bomber plane that was fighting a forest fire in the Guarda region crashed, causing the death of the pilot, its sole occupant. According to a report from the Portuguese civil protection, the fires of the last week have left two dead and around sixty injured. According to these estimates, the fires have ravaged, since the start of the heat wave, between 12,000 and 15,000 hectares of forest and brush.
Only the Algarve region in southern Portugal was not on heat alert. In the rest of the country, the meteorological institute predicts temperatures of up to 42°C in places on Saturday.
In Spain, dozens of fires were still raging from north to south of the country. On Saturday morning, in the region of Extremadura, on the border with Portugal, an outbreak of “unfavorable development”, according to the regional government, led to the closure of a section of the A5 motorway, linking Madrid to the Portuguese border. At the same time, in southern Andalusia, a fire near Malaga forced the preventive evacuation of more than three thousand people, according to the Andalusian emergency services.
The Spanish State Meteorological Agency kept virtually the entire country under different high temperature alert levels on Saturday, with values above 40°C in many areas and up to 44°C in places. If the peak of this heat wave seems to have been crossed in the Iberian Peninsula, the temperature should not drop below 40°C until the beginning of next week.
First ever ‘red alert’ in UK
In Greece, firefighters continued to fight an outbreak that broke out on Friday morning, causing the preventive evacuation of seven villages in a rural area of the prefecture of Rethymnon, on the island of Crete.
In the UK, a crisis committee of ministers was due to meet on Saturday after the Met office, Britain’s national meteorological service, issued the first-ever ‘red’ alert for extreme heat, warning of a “risk to life”. The service said temperatures in southern England could top 40C for the first time on Monday or Tuesday, possibly breaking the record of 38.7C from 2019.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has advised Londoners to only use public transport on these days when it is “absolutely necessary”. Rail companies have also urged passengers to avoid travel. Some schools in the south of England have told parents they will remain closed during the heatwave early next week.
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.