Europe is facing a ‘heat apocalypse’ with all-time temperature records set to be smashed in France today while Spain battles dozens of wildfires that have left one firefighter dead.
Extreme heat warnings are in place across the continent’s western flank today, with figures in excess of 104F (40C) predicted all the way from Faro in southern Portugal up to Manchester in the UK.
All-time records are set to tumble across much of western France with 111F (44C) possible near Bordeaux in what forecasters have branded a ‘heat apocalypse’.
The extreme conditions have sparked dozens of fires, with crews battling a ‘monster’ blaze in Gironde – near Bordeaux – which has forced 16,000 people to evacuated and torched 14,000 acres since it began a week ago.
David Brunner, the commander of local firefighters who has worked in the region for more than three decades, said he has ‘never seen anything like it.’
Meanwhile 36 fires are raging across Spain – two dozen of them out of control – one of which claimed the life of a 62-year-old firefighter on Sunday, burned to death around 60 miles south of Leon after being trapped by flames.
More than 1,000 people have died across Spain and Portugal in the heatwave, medical authorities have said, most of whom are thought to have perished from heat stress.
Firefighters in Gironde, south-western France, are battling a ‘monster’ blaze which has already ripped through 14,000 acres and is set to intensify today as temperatures hit 44C in the region
Flames torch a forest in Gironde, southern France, where firefighters are trying to contain a blaze described as the worst the region has seen for at least three decades
Flames light up pine trees in Louchats, south-west France, where temperatures are expected to break all-time records as they soar to 44C (111F) today
A firefighter in Gironde carries out a controlled burning as he tried to stop the spread of a nearby wildfire that has been burning out of control for more than a week
A firefighter in Gironde wanders through a burning pine forest as record-breaking temperatures turn parts of southern France into a giant tinder-box
Firemen in southern France carry out tactical burnings of tinder-dry woodland in an attempt to stop a nearby wildfire from spreading, after it torched 14,000 acres of forest in six days
Strong winds and record-breaking temperatures have combined to produce a ‘monster’ fire in southern France which has devastated woodland near Gironde (pictured)
‘There are never words to thank the immense work of those who fight in front of the fire without rest,’ Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez tweeted as news of the death spread.
Two thirds of the country’s entire fire-fighting force are now deployed to try and contain the blazes, with some 2,300 people evacuated from their homes.
Temperatures across the Iberian peninsula are broadly in excess of 104F with the hottest regions seeing 110F on Sunday. The heat is expected to continue through the early part of the week.
Almost the entirety of Spain is now under an ‘extreme danger’ of fire warning, according to the EU’s emergency management programme, with large parts of southern and central regions under the highest ‘very extreme danger’ warnings that also encompass parts of eastern Portugal.
Portuguese authorities are also battling wildfires in their country, though the situation has eased since temperatures topped 117F (47C) last week.
Four wildfires are raging in Portugal today with 700 firefighters deployed to dampen them down, though that is down from 16 that were burning late Sunday.
A nationwide state of emergency is due to last until Tuesday, when parliament will assess whether it needs to be extended. As things stand, it is likely the measures will be lifted.
The heatwave is the second to engulf parts of southwest Europe in weeks, and blazes burning in France, Greece, Portugal and Spain have destroyed thousands of hectares of land and forced thousands of residents and holidaymakers to flee.
Large parts of southern and western Europe are now under ‘extreme danger’ fire warnings, based on EU emergency management data, while some parts of Spain and Portugal are under the most-severe ‘very extreme danger’ warning
A smoke column emerges from a forest fire in O Barco de Valdeorras in northwestern Spain, as two dozen fires burn out of control across the country, with temperatures widely in excess of 104F (40C)
Firefighters near Barcelona, Spain, carry out controlled burnings of tinder-dry undergrowth in an attempt to stop larger wildfires from damaging homes and cities
A fireman uses a blowtorch to set controlled fires in Manresa, close to Barcelona, Spain, in an attempt to prevent larger wildfires from spreading – dozens of which are burning across the country
Spanish firefighters work to extinguish a blaze in O Barco de Valdeorras, in northwestern Spain, around 60 miles from where a fellow fireman was burned to death late Sunday by an out-of-control wildfire
NASA satellite data shows wildfires that have started in Europe over the last seven days, with Portugal, Spain and France all seeing higher-than-usual numbers due to freak temperatures
Scientists blame climate change and predict more frequent and intense episodes of extreme weather such as heatwaves and drought.
France’s interior ministry announced it would send an extra three firefighting planes, 200 firefighters and more trucks.
‘In some southwestern areas, it will be a heat apocalypse,’ meteorologist Francois Gourand told AFP.
The chapel of a historic hospital in the southeastern city of Lyon, Grand Hotel Dieu, offered refuge to tourists on Sunday including Jean-Marc, 51, who was visiting from Alsace.
‘We came back to admire the place, but we can’t leave, it’s too hot outside. We say a prayer before the fire!’ he quipped.
French cyclist Mikael Cherel, taking part in the Tour de France’s 15th stage between Rodez and Carcassonne in southern France on Sunday, described ‘very, very difficult conditions’.
‘I’ve never known such a hot day on a bike. It really was no picnic.’
In Spain, firefighters managed to stabilise a wildfire that ravaged 2,000 hectares of woods and bushes in the southern region of Andalusia, regional leader Juan Manuel Moreno said.
The blaze started on Friday in the Mijas mountain range inland from the southern coastal city of Malaga and it spurred the evacuation of about 3,000 people.
Around 2,000 people had since returned home and now that the blaze has stabilised, Moreno said the remaining evacuees may do the same.
Tactical firefighters set a fire to a plot of land to prevent the fire from spreading as the winds change in Louchats, south-western France, where temperature records could be broken today
A firefighter in southern France watches as woodland burns after he set a controlled fire in an attempt to stop a much larger wildfire nearby from spreading
A firefighter in southern France sets light to undergrowth and pine trees in an attempt to eat up tinder-dry vegetation and stop a nearby wildfire from spreading
A fire truck sprays water on a wildfire that has been burning in southern France for almost a week, consuming 14,000 acres of woodland in the process and forcing 16,000 people from their homes
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is due to visit the hard-hit eastern region of Extremadura on Monday where various fires have been raging for days.
In Portugal, almost the entire country remained on high alert for wildfires despite a slight drop in temperatures, after hitting 47C – a record for the month of July – on Thursday.
Only one major fire was burning on Sunday in the north.
The fires have killed two, injured around 60 and destroyed between 12,000 and 15,000 hectares of land in Portugal.
In the United Kingdom, the weather office issued a first-ever ‘red’ warning for extreme heat, cautioning there was a ‘risk to life’.
The Met Office said temperatures in southern England could exceed 40C on Monday or Tuesday for the first time, leading some schools to say they would stay closed next week.
The mercury is set to reach 38C in parts of the Netherlands on Tuesday.
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