ATHENS/MILAN, JULY 21 – The extended Europe heatwave covering swathes of Europe moved steadily eastwards on Thursday, forcing countries including Italy, Poland, and Slovenia to issue their highest heatwave alerts as firefighters battled wildfires across the continent.
Since temperatures in southern Europe began to soar earlier this month, the heatwave has caused hundreds of deaths and sparked wildfires that have burned tens of thousands of hectares of land in countries including Spain, Portugal, and France. Britain and France both saw record high temperatures on Tuesday.
The extreme heatwave is part of a global pattern of rising temperatures, widely attributed by scientists and climatologists to climate change caused by human activity. It is forecast to dump searing heat on much of China into late August. read more
Greece, which contained a large wildfire that raged near Athens for two days and was fanned by high winds, urged Europe to do more to tackle climate change.
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“The climate crisis is now evident across Europe, particularly in the Mediterranean region. The cocktail of high temperatures, gusty winds, and heavy drought inevitably leads to wildfires,” government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said on Thursday.
“Europe must act in a coordinated and rapid manner to reverse the climate crisis,” Oikonomou told reporters. ” cannot give the solution at a national level because the problem is transnational and huge.”
He said that Greek firefighters had tackled 390 forest fires in one week, about 50-70 blazes a day. According to the meteorological station in Penteli outside Athens, where the fire broke out on Tuesday, winds reached 113 km per hour (70 mph) at one point.
Fuelled by climate change, wildfires are increasing in frequency and intensity in many countries, spreading smoke that contains toxic gases, chemicals, and particulate matter that can damage health. read more
In Poland, the authorities issued heat warnings for many parts of the country, with temperatures as high as 36.7 Celsius (98 Fahrenheit) measured in the western town of Kornik. Many residents and tourists headed for local beaches to cool down in the northern port city of Gdansk.
The Onet news website reported a large wildfire fire near the southern town of Brzesko. Firefighters told Onet that more than 50 hectares (120 acres) of fields had already burned and that the fire was moving towards a forest. Temperatures in Poland are expected to ease on the weekend.
In Italy, blazes in Tuscany and Friuli Venezia Giulia continued to rage but did not appear to have spread, Italian news agency ANSA reported. It said that new wildfires were spotted in the mountains near Bologna and bordering the A9 highway, north of Milan.Fourteen cities, including Rome and Milan, were placed on the country’s highest heatwave alert on Thursday, with the number set to increase to 16 on Friday, the health ministry said.
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ANSA also reported that a fire that began in northern Italy near Carso has spread across the border to Slovenia, damaging an area of over 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres).On the Slovenian side, 400 people from three villages had to be evacuated because of the blaze, Slovenian news outlets said.Wildfires continued to burn in Portugal and Spain.
Sitting in a large sports hall filled with cots and plastic chairs, Fernando Gimenez, 68, shed tears as he spoke about leaving his home in central Spain, west of Madrid.Gimenez was one of the thousands of residents evacuated from the village of El Hoyo de Pinares because of a wildfire.
“I don’t know what I will find. Burnt trees. Nothing. I can’t even think about it,” Gimenez told Reuters. “I feel kind of emptiness inside,” he added.The Spanish Red Cross has organized temporary accommodation for him and hundreds of evacuees.
“We work a lot with them on psychological support because leaving their home behind without knowing what is happening it’s hard,” said a Red Cross team leader, Belen Lopez.