France fights spreading wildfires as heatwave fries Europe
France has scrambled more water-bombing planes and hundreds more firefighters to combat spreading wildfires that were being fed by hot swirling winds from a searing heat wave broiling much of Europe.
With winds changing direction, authorities in south-western France announced plans to evacuate more towns and move out 3,500 people at risk of finding themselves in the path of the flames.
Three additional water-bombing planes were joining six others already making repeated runs over the flames and dense clouds of smoke, the French interior ministry said.
It added that more than 200 reinforcements were also being added to the 1,500-strong force of firefighters battling night and day to contain the blazes which are devastating the Gironde region’s tinder-dry pine forests and sending burning embers into the air, spreading the flames even further.
Meanwhile, Spain reported a second fatality in two days as it battled wildfires.
The body of a 69-year-old sheep farmer was found on Monday in the same hilly area where a 62-year-old firefighter died a day earlier when he was trapped by flames in the northwestern Zamora province.
More than 30 forest fires around Spain have forced the evacuation of thousands of people and blackened 85 square miles (220 square kilometres) of forest and scrub.
In both France and Spain, fierce heat is fuelling blazes. Forecasters warned of temperatures above 40C (104F) for Monday.
“I left my country under fire, literally under fire,” Teresa Ribera, Spain’s minister for ecological transition, said as she attended talks on climate change in Berlin on Monday.
She warned of “terrifying prospects still for the days to come” — after more than 10 days of temperatures over 40C, cooling only moderately at night.
Heatwaves and drought tied to climate change have made wildfires harder to fight. Scientists say climate change will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.
According to Spain’s Carlos III Institute, which records daily temperature-related fatalities, 237 deaths were attributed to high temperatures from July 10 to 14. This was compared to 25 temperature-related deaths the previous week.
The heatwave in Spain is forecast to ease on Tuesday, but the respite will be brief as temperatures rise again on Wednesday, especially in the tinder-dry western Extremadura region.
In Portugal, much cooler weather on Monday helped fire crews make progress against blazes. More than 600 firefighters were attending four major fires in northern Portugal.
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