Heat wave intensifies in Europe

The heatwave of unprecedented precocity that has plagued southern Europe for several days was set to intensify further across France and even hit all-time highs on Saturday afternoon, while firefighters in Spain try to bring a huge blaze under control.

Almost all of France’s territory should be affected on Saturday and 11 departments, located mainly along the Atlantic coast and south-west, are on alert, according to Meteo France, with temperatures potentially reaching 42C locally.

• Also read: ON VIDEO | Northwest Spain ravaged by fires

• Also read: Southwest Europe crushed by heat

• Also read: Thousands of hectares burned in Spain

The heat is expected to increase further on Saturday afternoon “from the west of the Pyrenees towards the north-east of the country,” according to Météo-France, which indicates that “it will be between 38 and 41C in general in the south – west, the center and the Paris region”.

“In the south of the Aquitaine region (southwest), points close to 42°C are even possible locally. Then absolute temperature records could be broken,” warns Météo-France in its last bulletin on Saturday.

The increase in heat waves in Europe is a direct result of global warming. Greenhouse gas emissions increase the strength, duration and repetition rate of heat waves, scientists say.

Many festive, sporting and cultural events have also been cancelled.

From Saturday evening, however, isolated thunderstorms could appear on the Atlantic coast, with the first signs of deterioration expected for Sunday evening and allowing the heatwave to “gradually weaken and no longer only affect the eastern flank of the country,” according to Météo-France.

The heatwave has had particular consequences for the homeless, who are at risk of dehydration.

In Toulouse (south-west), the Red Cross organizes marauding operations to distribute fresh water to them. “More people die on the streets in summer than in winter,” said Hugues Juglair, a 67-year-old volunteer.

Farmers have to adapt too. Daniel Toffaloni, farmer near Elne (Pyrénées-Orientales), “Attack at dawn until 11:30 am”. “After that, I can work in the evening before it gets dark,” says the 60-year-old. In his tomato greenhouses, the temperature can reach 55°C.

“We are in a very early heatwave, a strong episode that is lasting a little longer than expected,” French Health Minister Brigitte Bourguignon said during a trip to a south-west retirement home, adding that “the hospital is obviously saturated but is covering demand”.

In Spain, firefighters continued to battle multiple fires across the country.

The most devastating fire forced authorities to evacuate 14 villages, home to several hundred people, in the Sierra de la Culebra, a mountain range in the Castile and León region, near the border with Portugal.

According to regional authorities, some of them were able to return to their homes on Saturday morning after the flames moved away from their homes.

In all, almost 20,000 hectares burned in this huge fire.

However, the fire “remains active”, stressed the government of Castile and Leon, citing “unfavorable” weather conditions with dry winds and high temperatures.

Firefighters also fought other fires in Caudiel, in the Valencia region (southeast) or in Artesa de Segre in Catalonia (northeast), where a fire that has been ongoing since Wednesday has already devastated 1,600 hectares of land.

The heatwave didn’t stop at Germany either, where temperatures of up to 40 degrees were felt on Saturday while some fires have already broken out.

In Brandenburg, the region around Berlin, the fire broke out on Friday and spread to around 60 hectares in the evening.

Another fire in the Trecktal southwest of Berlin is under control but threatens to flare up again due to drought and high ground temperatures. About 6.5 hectares of forest burned.

The United Nations (UN) called on Friday to act “now” against drought and desertification to avoid “human disasters”.

“It’s time to act: Every action counts,” said Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Ibrahim Thiaw, during a conference in Madrid to mark World Drought Day.

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