With temperatures dropping across most of southern Europe on Wednesday 20 July, there is a respite from the severe conditions of the second heat wave of the summer. Some forest fires have been controlled. However, the deflagrations continue in regions of Spain and a new focus of fire is fueled on the outskirts of Athens, Greece. In addition, a new rise in temperature is expected in the coming days.
Strips of southern Europe register a truce in the extraordinary heat wave on July 20, but the authorities warn of a new rise in temperatures for Thursday, July 21.
The emergency services managed to combat some forest fires on the continent, but other sources of fire continue to burn in countries such as Spain, France and Portugal.
Added to this situation is the fact that since Tuesday, July 19, a deflagration fueled by hurricane winds has devastated mountains north of Athens, Greece, which has forced new evacuations.
Although firefighters explain that most fires are not directly caused by the weather, but by negligence, provocations or accidents, high temperatures worsen conditions and make it difficult to extinguish the fire.
The climatic phenomenon is widely attributed by scientists to human activity, which aggravates global warming.
Spain, in the worst wave of fires in a decade
At least 193,247 hectares of forest have been devastated in Spanish territory so far this year, according to data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).
In about six and a half months, the country has surpassed the figures for the entire year of 2012, which recorded a record 189,376 hectares burned.
Although the authorities have made progress in controlling the fires in recent days, for this Wednesday, July 20, they are still trying to combat 16 active fires, 9 of them serious.
The fire in the town of Losacio, in the province of Zamora, has been extinguished, while the deflagration in Ateca, Zaragoza, continues to advance after burning 14,000 hectares.
The reforestation company Land Life acknowledged its responsibility in that fire. In a statement, he explained that it started with a spark that exploded when his employees were working with an excavating machine. The company dedicated to planting trees said that it is devastated and offers its help to the authorities.
Meanwhile, in Galicia, northwest of the country, the fires have destroyed more than 24,000 hectares. Seven deflagrations are still active, the largest and still uncontrolled occur in the towns of O Courel and Valdeorras, underline the authorities.
As the hours go by, the situation overflows in some areas such as Valdeorras, where the flames even crossed the Sil River and reached the neighboring province of León. The panorama forced the evacuation of dozens of inhabitants.
In Extremadura, in the west of the country, where one of the worst outbreaks of fire was recorded, the general director of Forestry Policy, Pedro Muñoz, assured that the fire is under control and that the flames were caused.
“It is clear that it has been intentional” because it has had six different sources at the beginning, the official explained.
Portugal still fighting the biggest forest fire
The Civil Protection commander of the northern region of Portugal, Armando Silva, indicated that the increase in temperatures and strong winds make it difficult to fight against the largest forest fire in the country.
This is the focus of fire in the municipality of Murça and its surroundings, which so far has burned between 10,000 and 12,000 hectares.
As a direct consequence of the explosions, the authorities of this country have confirmed the death of one person. But due to the effect of the heat wave, the Ministry of Health reports the death of 1,065 inhabitants and indicates that it is likely that there will be more deaths in the coming days, as high temperatures return.
A new fire breaks out on the outskirts of Athens, Greece
Thick clouds of smoke darkened the sky over Mount Penteli, 27 kilometers north of Athens, where nearly 500 firefighters, 120 trucks and 15 planes carrying water have tried to contain a fire that has broken out since Tuesday June 19 and continues burning several fronts.
The fire fueled by hurricane-force winds is tearing through mountains and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of people, including hospital patients.
The authorities issued the evacuation order for nine settlements. A hospital and the National Observatory in Athens were also evacuated and police helped at least 600 residents to leave the areas affected by the flames.
VIDEO: A wildfire rages through Mount Penteli, on the outskirts of Athens, Greece. Greek authorities evacuated eight villages north of the capital city, reporting 39 fire outbreaks across the country in just 24 hours. pic.twitter.com/DQRW1ip2il
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) July 20, 2022
At least two people were hospitalized in the Greek capital with respiratory problems and minor burns, while local authorities said several houses had been burned in the fire around Mount Penteli, 25 kilometers northeast of Athens.
“Conditions are very challenging. The priority is to safeguard human life, critical infrastructure and private property,” Fire Service spokesman Yiannis Artopios said.
Meanwhile, in Italy, Fire crews from the central region of Tuscany are fighting a forest fire for the third consecutive day, near the city of Lucca, which has destroyed around 560 hectares of forest, according to the local administration.
About 500 people were forced to abandon their homes, at a time when the flames reached some villages and caused the explosion of some liquefied gas tanks, according to the governor of the region, Eugenio Giani. “Some fronts have been strengthened by the wind,” he added.
Macron visits firefighters in areas devastated by flames
In France, President Emmanuel Macron visited firefighting teams fighting two fires in the Gironde region in the southeast of the country on Wednesday.
Local authorities noted that better weather conditions have helped contain the flames, but active fires remain.
In addition, two firefighters were seriously injured during the night of Tuesday, confirmed the government spokesman, Olivier Véran.
In the nation that has been struggling to contain huge forest fires since July 12, Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau said more money needs to be invested to deal with these threats.
“We have to face a quite exceptional situation,” he stressed, referring to the damage caused in the south of France.
Firefighters created massive firebreaks through threatened forests in the country’s southwest, using heavy machinery to uproot trees and roots to leave vast swathes of desert, to stop the fires from spreading. After a week of raging bushfires, the flames have slowed down but have not been fully extinguished.
“We are quite confident… But we are still very vigilant,” said Ronan Leaustic, a regional official for the southwestern Gironde area.
Meanwhile, in United Kingdomthe flames in the Monts d’Arree area, in the northwest, continued this Wednesday, while rescuers work from the ground and from the air with planes dropping water.
The truce in the heat wave is brief
While the record heat experienced last week in parts of the Mediterranean has given firefighters in Spain and Portugal some respite, thermometer readings have started to rise again.
Meteorologists indicate that a new peak of high temperatures is expected, with around 40 degrees Celsius in some strips of the continent, in the coming days.
That mark was surpassed in the United Kingdom on Tuesday, July 19, for the first time in its history. He broke the previous record recorded in Cambridge, with 38 degrees, in 2019.
The director of Science and Technology of the Nation’s Weather Bureau, Stephen Belcher, indicated that unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, the country could experience similar heat waves every three years.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, a member of the opposition Labor Party, issued a similar warning.
“The sad reality is that this is the future of London and the UK if we don’t take strong action now against the climate crisis,” he said.
The brutal heat wave has gripped southern Europe since last week, part of a global pattern of rising temperatures, widely attributed by scientists to human activity, which is also forecast to dump scorching heat across much of Europe. China until the end of August.
With Reuters, AP and local media