France battles massive forest fires, Britain breaks temperature record

  • Wildfires burn forests in Gironde, south-west France
  • UK temperatures top 40C for first time
  • Germany and Belgium prepare for possible record temperatures
  • More than 30 wildfires are ravaging parts of Spain

LONDON/PARIS, July 19 (Reuters) – Firefighters in southwestern France battled to contain massive wildfires on Tuesday and Britain recorded its highest temperature on record, warping train tracks and lighting grass fires in dry conditions around London.

Southern and western Germany and Belgium also braced for potentially record high temperatures as the heat wave, which scientists attribute to climate change, spread north and east.

A forest fire fueled by strong winds raged in a mountainous area near homes on the outskirts of the Greek capital, prompting authorities to order the evacuation of at least one area.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Register

Numerous forest fires have been reported in Italy. One of the biggest fires broke out Monday night in the hills of Massarosa in Tuscany, and was still raging Tuesday afternoon.

“The fire continues to devour the woods in a frightening way because of the wind,” said the governor of Tuscany, Eugenio Giani. He said 365 hectares (900 acres) of land had been destroyed.

Fires have also been reported in woods near Rome, as well as on the shores of Lake Orta north of Milan and near the city of Trieste in the northeast, forcing authorities to close a highway and a lane. railroad, temperatures should remain high.

A temperature of over 40C (104F) has been tentatively recorded for the first time in Britain, the Met Office said.

Authorities have put Britain, which often struggles to maintain key transport services when hit by unexpected weather conditions such as heavy snowfall or high winds, in a state of “national emergency “due to the unprecedented temperatures.

Train routes from London to the country’s east and west coasts were cancelled, power companies reported massive blackouts and normally busy city centers seemed quiet. Network Rail tweeted images showing bends and bends in the tracks.

To the east of the capital, a large fire engulfed homes in the village of Wennington, with flames tearing through nearby fields and approaching a historic church. Elsewhere, large swaths of grass around the capital were on fire.

“NON-STABILIZED” LIGHTS

In southwestern France, the Gironde wine region has seen its biggest wildfires in more than 30 years and authorities say a man has been arrested on suspicion of arson.

The fires have spread over 19,300 hectares (about 75 square miles) in the Bordeaux countryside since July 12, forcing a total of 34,000 people to evacuate their homes.

About 2,000 firefighters, supported by eight water bomber planes, were battling the blazes.

“Despite the ground and air attacks, the situation has still not stabilized,” the state prefecture said, adding that no deaths or injuries had been reported.

With human-caused climate change triggering droughts, the number of extreme wildfires is expected to increase by 30% over the next 28 years, according to a February 2022 UN report.

“We are seeing more frequent heat waves, and the heat waves are hotter than they would have been without climate change,” Friederike Otto, senior lecturer in climate science at the Institute, told Reuters. Imperial College London.

The health impact of the heat wave was the focus of attention, with particular attention paid to the elderly and vulnerable.

“People don’t really feel like they have to drink a lot so they can get dehydrated and that’s really dangerous for the elderly,” said Annick Van huylenbroeck, acting manager, at a nursing home in Grimbergen, north from Brussels.

Hot nighttime temperatures are also hampering firefighting interventions across Europe and worsening health conditions, as nighttime hours do not allow for cooling, experts said on Tuesday. Read more

FLAMES AND SMOKE

In Italy, temperatures are expected to reach 40°C in parts of the north and center throughout the week, as well as the southern heel of the Italian boot, Puglia and the islands of Sardinia and Sicily.

Five cities have been placed on maximum red alert due to Tuesday’s heat wave. The alert, which warns of serious weather-related health risks, will cover nine cities on Wednesday, rising to 14 on Thursday, including several of Italy’s largest metropolitan areas, including Rome, Milan and Florence.

Although mercury returned to more normal summer levels in Spain and Portugal, firefighters in both countries were still battling multiple blazes.

More than 30 wildfires have continued to ravage parts of Spain, with authorities paying particular attention to four blazes in Castile and Leon and Galicia.

In Losacio, in the northwest of the province of Zamora, where two people died and three seriously injured, more than 6,000 people in 32 villages were evacuated.

“The drought is affecting us very, very much. Keep in mind that there hasn’t been rain for five or six months and some people in these towns are elderly, the properties are not cleared well and they are full of invasive vegetation,” said Hanibal Pena, 69, who lives in Tabara, Zamora province.

So far this year, 70,000 hectares (173,000 acres) have been burned in Spain, around double the average for the past decade, according to official data released ahead of the heatwave.

In neighboring Portugal, around 50 municipalities, mainly in the central and northern regions, were still facing the “maximum risk” of forest fires, according to the meteorological institute IPMA.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Register

Additional reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian in London, Catarina Demony in Lisbon, Dominique Vidalon in Paris and Renee Maltezou in Athens, Aleksandar Vasovic in Belgrade, Crispian Balmer in Rome, Bart Biesemans in Belgium; Editing by Nick Macfie, Gareth Jones, Bernadette Baum, Alexandra Hudson

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.