Over a thousand dead, fires rage as heatwave grips Europe

by mcardinal


A deadly heatwave holds Europe in its grip, as Spain and Portugal reported that over 1,000 people died in heat-related incidents last week. The most intense heat is now centered on the more vulnerable countries of France and the U.K., with Britain recording its highest ever temperatures on Tuesday.

Southern and western Germany and Belgium were also braced for potentially record-breaking temperatures as the heatwave edged north and east.

A temperature of more than 104F was provisionally recorded on Tuesday for the first time ever in Britain, the Met Office said.

Experts predict that several thousand more may die as a result of the heat, as the current area does not have the same resources, including the availability of air conditioning, to deal with the weather phenomenon as Portugal or Spain.

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

Transport minister Grant Shapps said it would take many years to fully upgrade Britain’s infrastructure to cope with higher temperatures, after at least two airport runways showed signs of damage and some train tracks buckled.

“We’ve seen a considerable amount of travel disruption,” he told the BBC. “Infrastructure, much of which was built from the Victorian times, just wasn’t built to withstand this type of temperature.”

Fires rage across Europe

London’s firefighting authority declared a major incident in the British capital on Tuesday in response to the surge in fires amid a record-breaking heatwave in Britain and Europe.

The London Fire Brigade said it had deployed dozens of fire engines to several fires in and around the city, including thirty to a grass fire in east London. Television footage showed one blaze engulfing several homes.

“Firefighters are still meeting the needs of our communities, but declaring a major incident allows us to focus our resources,” the brigade said.

In southwestern France, the wine-growing Gironde region saw its biggest wildfires in over 30 years and authorities said a man had been detained on suspicion of arson.

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

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

“Despite attacks from the ground and from the air, the situation has still not stabilized,” the state prefecture said in a statement, adding there had been no reports of death or injury.

Although the mercury dipped back towards more normal summer levels in Spain and Portugal, firefighters in both countries were still battling multiple blazes.

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

In neighboring Portugal, around 50 municipalities, mainly in central and northern regions, still faced “maximum risk” of wildfires, according to the IPMA weather institute.

More than 1,000 firefighters were battling five main wildfires, the biggest of which started in the northern municipality of Murça and spread to two nearby municipalities.

Copyright 2022 Thomson/Reuters (Additions and edits for FISM News by Michael Cardinal)