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As Europe sizzles in the heat, wildfires rage from Portugal to Croatia

As Europe sizzles in the heat, wildfires rage from Portugal to Croatia
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  • Homes and camps were evacuated, livelihoods threatened
  • Flames ravaged the slopes near Pombal, Portugal
  • A fire is burning near Europe’s highest sand dune
  • Europe ‘hotspot for heat waves’, says scientist

LEIRIA, Portugal/RASLINA, Croatia, July 14 (Reuters) – Forest fires in Portugal, Spain, France and Croatia burned homes and threatened livelihoods on Thursday as much of Europe was scorched by a heatwave that raised temperatures. to mid 40C in some places.

The nations of southern Europe, which are experiencing their second heat wave in as many months, have been hit by a series of wildfires in the past few weeks.

Exhausted firefighters battled blazes fanned by strong winds in central Portugal’s Leiria region. Images from the area on Wednesday showed smoke blackening the sky and crossing a highway, with flames licking the roofs of houses in a small village.

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“Yesterday was a very difficult day,” Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said at a briefing with the national meteorological institute IPMA.

“It’s absolutely essential that we avoid new incidents because it’s exhausting for firefighters and all the other people who are doing everything they can to control the situation.”

The blaze of greatest concern was near the town of Pombal, where on Thursday planes and helicopters dropped water on the blaze, which was tearing up a hillside covered in flammable pine and eucalyptus trees.

“When you get to the eucalyptus, it’s like an explosion,” said Antonio, an elderly resident of the nearby village of Gesteira, as he anxiously watched the approaching flames.

On the border in western Spain, a fire that started in the region of Extremadura on Tuesday spread to the province of Salamanca in the Castile and Leon region, forcing the evacuation of 49 children from a summer camp on Thursday.

Regional authorities said more than 4,000 hectares (9,900 acres) had burned.

Spain’s meteorological agency AEMET expected the heat wave to peak on Thursday, with temperatures in large parts of southern Spain to exceed 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit).

THOUSANDS were evacuated

On Croatia’s Adriatic coast, firefighting planes descended to pour water on burning forests and troops were called in to help firefighters battle to contain three major wildfires around Zadar and Sibenek.

Arndt Dreste, 55, moved to the village of Raslina near Sibenik this year after selling his property in Germany. His house was seriously damaged by fire.

“I bought this house in January … I left Germany and this is my life here … it was here,” Dreste told Reuters, showing the burning walls of his home.

More than 1,000 firefighters, supported by nine water-bomber planes, were battling two wildfires that broke out in southwestern France on Tuesday. The fires have already burned 5,300 hectares, which has doubled in the last 24 hours.

“The situation on the ground is unfavorable, with scorching heat and wind,” Fabienne Buccio, prefect of the Gironde department, told local media. “And since night is about to fall, we won’t be able to use our air vehicles.”

He also urged tourists planning to vacation in the region to stay away from the area for a few days or weeks.

One of the two Gironde fires was around the town of Landiras, south of Bordeaux, where 2,400 hectares burned, roads were closed and 500 residents were evacuated.

Another blaze, now the largest at 2,900 hectares, was in the Arcachon Bay area near the “Dune du Pilat” – Europe’s highest sand dune – along the Atlantic coast, over which heavy clouds of dark smoke were seen rising. the sky

About 6,000 people were evacuated from surrounding camps on Wednesday, and another 4,000 by Thursday morning.

On Thursday, a forest fire broke out near the city of Tarascon in the south-east of the country and burned several hundred hectares of land.

“This is the first time such a violent fire has happened,” the mayor of Tarascon told reporters.

“HEAT WAVE HOTSPOT”

Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes on the Datca Peninsula in southwestern Turkey, as the fire that started on Wednesday was extinguished overnight by strong winds and threatened residential areas.

The fire was brought under control after seven firefighting planes and 14 helicopters were deployed to fight the fire on Thursday, the forestry minister said. read more

Scientists blame human-caused climate change for the increased frequency of extreme weather, such as the recent heat waves that have affected parts of China and the United States.

A study published last week in the journal Nature found that the number of heat waves in Europe is increasing three to four times faster than in the rest of the northern mid-latitudes, such as the United States and Canada. the stream of air is divided into two parts for a longer period of time.

“Europe is highly affected by changes in atmospheric circulation,” said co-author Kai Kornhuber, a climate scientist at Columbia University. It is a hotspot of heat waves.”

But some Europeans welcomed the heat. In Catania, on the east coast of the Italian island of Sicily, tourists and locals flocked to cafes to eat granita, a frozen dessert, and jumped into the sea to cool off.

“The heat here is a bit tiring, but I think it’s the least tiring we’ve had this year, I’m happy to put up with it,” said Pierpaola, a resident of Catania.

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Additional reporting by Emma Pinedo in Madrid, Benoit Van Overstraeten in Paris, Gloria Dickie in London, Ali Küçüköçmen and Yeşim Dikmen in Istanbul, Oriana Boselli and Reuters TV in Rome; Written by Alex Richardson; Edited by Janet Lawrence and Deepa Babington

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