Thousands of firefighters fought more than 20 flames that raged in Portugal and western Spain on Wednesday, threatening villages and disrupting tourists’ holidays amid a heat wave that pushed temperatures above 45 degrees Celsius in some parts of Europe.
In France, hundreds of firefighters, backed by six water bombers, fought two wildfires in the southwest, prompting the evacuation of thousands of campers, Gironde prefect Fabienne Buccio said.
In Santiago de Guarda in the central Portuguese district of Leiria, Albertina Francisco struggled to hold back tears as a cloud of black smoke billowed over the small village.
“It was very difficult,” said Francisco, 42, who helped evacuate her sick sister. “Nobody helped – the firefighters and the (water bomber) plane just came here … The state needs to do more to help us.”
Some villagers rescued pets, while others helped the fire department fight the flames.
In Leiria, where more than 3,000 hectares have been burned so far, authorities blocked major highways and side streets as strong winds made it harder for firefighters to fight the blaze.
Portugal’s main motorway, which connects its capital Lisbon with Porto, was also blocked by another fire further north.
Nearly 900 firefighters fought three active firefighters in Leiria alone, while in the whole of mainland Portugal there were 2,841 firefighters on the ground and 860 cars.
In the southern Algarve region of Portugal, popular with tourists, a fire broke out in the city of Faro and spread to the luxury resort of Quinta do Lago.
Videos shared online showed flames near villas, burning palm trees and parts of golf courses.
About half of Portugal affected by drought will remain on red warning on Thursday for extreme heat conditions, with the highest temperatures expected in the Santarem and Castelo Branco districts, the IPMA Water Institute said.
Wednesday’s highest temperature was recorded in central Lousa at 46.3 degrees C, one degree below a 2003 record.
Retired Antonio Ramalheiro did not blame enough forest management in addition to the heat wave for the wildfires.
“It’s scary when the fire comes,” the 62-year-old said. “When it reaches the house, it’s a shame … you lose everything.”
At least 135 people have suffered particularly minor injuries since wildfires began in Portugal last week, and about 800 people have been evacuated from their homes, according to the Civil Protection Authority.
More than 2,700 hectares have been burned in the Gironde region of France so far, prefect Buccio told BFM TV.
The largest of the two fires is around the town of Landiras, south of Bordeaux, where roads have been closed and 500 residents evacuated.
The other is along the Atlantic coast, near the iconic “Dune du Pilat” – the highest sand dune in Europe – located in the area of Arcachon Bay, where heavy clouds of dark smoke were seen rising in the air.
That fire led to the preventive evacuation of 6,000 people from five surrounding campsites.
They were taken to a local exhibition center for shelter.
“Other campers woke us up at half past three in the morning. We had to leave immediately and quickly choose what to take with us “, Christelle, one of the evacuated tourists, told BFM TV.
On the eve of Bastille Day, Gironde prefecture has banned all fireworks in towns and villages near forests until Monday.
The World Meteorological Organization warned on Tuesday that the heat wave is expanding and intensifying in large parts of Europe.
With man-made climate change triggering drought, the number of extreme wildfires is expected to increase by 30% over the next 28 years, according to a February 2022 UN report.
Searing temperatures also hovered over China’s vast Yangtze River basin on Wednesday; firefighters tackle a forest fire near the tourist town of Datca in Turkey; and power demand in Texas hit an all-time high as consumers cranked their air conditioning to escape the heat.
In the western region of Spain from Extremadura bordering Portugal, firefighters are battling a flame that engulfed the province of Salamanca in the region of Castile and León, burning more than 4,000 hectares.
Parts of the regions of Extremadura, Andalusia and Galicia were on red warning for extreme heat, said the AEMET meteorological service of Spain, adding that the highest temperature of the country on Wednesday stood at 45.6 C in the province of Huelva.
Scorching heat wave attracts wildfires in Europe – SABC News
Source link Scorching heat wave attracts wildfires in Europe – SABC News