Authorities across southern Europe battled yesterday to control huge wildfires in countries including Spain, Greece and France, with hundreds of deaths blamed on soaring temperatures that scientists say are consistent with climate change.
In Spain, helicopters dropped water on the flames as heat above 40 Celsius and often mountainous terrain made the job harder for firefighters.
Shocked residents watching thick plumes of smoke rising above the central western Jerte valley said the heat was making their previously green and cool home more like Spain’s semi-arid south.
“Climate change affects everyone,” said resident Miguel Angel Tamayo.
A study published in June in the journal Environmental Research: Climate concluded it was highly probable that climate change was making heatwaves worse.
More than 1,000 deaths have been attributed to the nearly week-long heatwave in Portugal and Spain so far. Temperatures in Spain have reached as high as 45.7C.
Spain’s weather agency issued temperature warnings and warned temperatures would remain “abnormally high”.
Fires were raging in several other regions including Castille and Leon in central Spain and Galicia in the north yesterday afternoon. Firefighters stabilised a blaze in Mijas, in Malaga province, and said evacuated people could return home.
In France, wildfires have now spread over 11,000 hectares (27,000 acres) in the southwestern region of Gironde, and more than 14,000 people have been evacuated, regional authorities said.
More than 1,200 firefighters were trying to control the blazes, the authorities said in a statement.
France issued red alerts, the highest possible, for several regions, with residents urged “to be extremely vigilant”.
In Italy, where smaller fires have blazed in recent days, forecasters expect temperatures above 40C in several regions in coming days.
Similar temperatures were recorded in Portugal yesterday and are forecast in Britain today and tomorrow, in what would top its previous official record of 38.7C (102F) set in Cambridge in 2019.
A view shows trees burning amid a fire that broke out near Landiras, in the Gironde region of southwestern France.