Western Europe ravaged by wildfires as hundreds killed by heat wave
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Wildfires raged across southwestern France, Spain and Portugal on Saturday, forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes as a lingering heat wave ripped through western Europe.
By Saturday afternoon, 14,000 people had been evacuated from France’s Gironde region as more than 1,200 firefighters battled to bring the flames under control, regional authorities said in a statement.
« We have a fire that will continue to spread until it is stabilized, » said Vincent Ferrier, sub-prefect of Langon in Gironde, during a press conference.
Fierce flames have ravaged the forest in the Bordeaux region of France for five consecutive days, while forest fires in Portugal have injured more than 160 people.
A firefighting plane pilot died in an accident on Friday during an operation in northeastern Portugal. This is the first fatal fire of the year in Portugal.
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The heat wave caused 360 heat-related deaths, according to figures from the Carlos III Health Institute.
The fire season hit parts of Europe earlier than expected due to an unusually hot and dry spring that parched the ground.
Firefighters supported by water dump planes are battling fires in southern France and at the Casas de Miravete in Spain’s Extremadura region. Greece has sent firefighting equipment to help.
During the last weather alert, 38 of the 96 French departments were put on « orange » alert, the inhabitants of these areas being invited to be vigilant. The heat wave in western France is expected to peak on Monday, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
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In neighboring Spain, firefighters were battling a series of blazes on Saturday after days of unusually high temperatures of up to 45.7C (114F).
A similar scene is unfolding in Portugal, where more than 3,000 firefighters fought alongside desperate citizens to save their homes from several wildfires that have raged across the country,
There has been a respite for firefighters in Portugal, where temperatures plummeted across most of the country on Saturday after hitting around 40C (104F) in recent days.
« We had big fires and we don’t want them to reactivate again… We will keep extreme vigilance this weekend, » the commander of the Emergency and Civil Protection Authority told reporters. , André Fernandes.
A total of 39,550 hectares (98,000 acres) have been ravaged by wildfires from the start of the year until mid-June, more than triple the area razed by fires in the same period. last year, according to data from the Institute for Nature and Forest Conservation showed.
An area equivalent to nearly two-thirds of that burned in last week’s fires.
Portugal’s health ministry said 238 people died from the heatwave between July 7 and July 13, most of them elderly people with underlying conditions.
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Across the Mediterranean from Europe, fires in Morocco have ravaged more than 2,000 hectares of forest in the northern regions of Larache, Ouazzane, Taza and Tetouane, killing at least one person, authorities said local.
More than 1,000 households were evacuated from their villages and planes carrying water helped put out most of the fires on Friday evening, although firefighters were still struggling to put out three hotspots near Larache.
Reuters contributed to this report.