Wildfires – Europe, Morocco
Thousands of people in Portugal, Spain, France and Morocco have been evacuated from their homes as firefighters tackle wildfires caused by this week’s heatwave, which has brought extreme temperatures of more than 45C (113F) to parts of Europe and north Africa.
One person has died and at least 135 people have suffered mainly minor injuries since wildfires began in Portugal last week. About 800 people have been evacuated from their homes. By Thursday, Portugal had registered 28 active fires, with more than 2,000 firefighters on the ground.
Hundreds more people were evacuated from their homes in south-west France as wildfires raged out of control on Friday. Since Tuesday, more than 1,000 firefighters, supported by nine water-bomber aircraft, have been battling two blazes fanned by scorching heat, tinder-box conditions and strong winds. Authorities in the Gironde department, where the fires are still raging, described the situation as “adverse”. One of the two Gironde fires was around the town of Landiras, south of Bordeaux, where 4,200 hectares have been burned, roads have been closed, and almost 1,000 residents have been evacuated. The other blaze, that has already burnt 3,100 hectares, was along the Atlantic Coast close to the “Dune du Pilat” – the tallest sand dune in Europe – in the Arcachon Bay area.
Temperature records have been equalled or broken across many parts of Spain, with the mercury hitting 44.1C in the north-western city of Ourense for the first time on Thursday. Temperatures in parts of Extremadura, where firefighters are battling a wildfire that has consumed more than 4,000 hectares of land, reached 45C on Thursday.
Moroccan firefighters, soldiers, police officers and civil defence workers have been battling at least four fires that are ripping through forests in the north of the country. At least 1,000 hectares of forest have been burned since Wednesday night in Larache and Ouezzane, according to initial reports. The country, which is struggling under intense droughts, has in recent days been hit by soaring temperatures approaching 45C.
Italy and Croatia have also reported forest fires this week, and eight people had to jump into the sea at Bibione on the Adriatic coast to escape the fire and smoke.
Strong winds have greatly increased the risk of wildfires in five regions in Greece, civil protection officials have warned. Central Greece, Attica and Crete are among the areas most at risk and the fire brigade said they had counted 51 forest fires in the past 24 hours.