Wildfires wreak havoc across Europe amid deadly heatwave

Firefighters tackling a forest fire in Portugal with temperatures in the country nudging 45C.  (AFP via Getty Images)
Firefighters tackling a forest fire in Portugal with temperatures in the country nudging 45C. (AFP via Getty Images)

Wildfires have been raging through parts of Europe, with thousands of firefighters tackling blazes amid a heatwave gripping the continent.

Portugal, Spain and France and Turkey have been the worst hit.

In Portugal, Civil Protection commander Andre Fernandes said multiple fires have caused the evacuation of more than 600 people while 120 had been injured.

Europe Hot Weather: Summer 2022 Heatwave

Water-dumping planes helped 1,300 firefighters combat the worst of the blazes in the nation’s central area while another 1,000 worked to bring other fires under control, he added.

Meanwhile more than 800 firefighters battled two wildfires in the region outside Bordeaux in south-west France, according to the regional emergency service.

The fires began on Tuesday near the towns of Landiras and La Teste-de-Buch.

Firefighters had not been able to contain them by Wednesday morning.

About 6,500 people have been evacuated from campgrounds and villages in the forested area.

The two blazes have destroyed more than 4,400 acres of terrain, the emergency service said.

Dramatic images from firefighters showed flames racing through thickets of trees and grassland, fanned by strong winds, and smoke blackening the horizon.

No one has died from a wildfire since then as Portugal improved its forest management and firefighting strategies.

Last year, Portugal recorded its lowest number of wildfires since 2011.

But a mass of hot and dry air blown in by African winds are driving temperatures in the Iberian Peninsula beyond their usual highs.

The Atlantic country, which has been on alert of wildfires since last week, is sweltering under a spike in temperatures that is forecast to soar to 46C (115F) in the central Alentejo region on Wednesday and Thursday.

European Union officials issued a warning last week that climate change is behind the extremely dry and hot summer so far on the continent, urging local authorities to brace for wildfires.

In Britain, a series of hot weather warnings have been issued with the extreme temperatures considered a “threat to life”.

Cayetano Torres, spokesman for Spain’s national weather forecaster, said the “unusual” heatwave and lack of rainfall in recent months has created ideal circumstances for fires.”

He added: “These are perfect conditions for the propagation of fires, which when you add to that some wind, you have guaranteed propagation.”

In south-western Turkey, a blaze erupted in an area close to the village of Mesudiye, near the Aegean Sea resort of Datca, and was moving in the direction of some homes in the area, according to the provincial governor’s office.

It said at least nine water-dropping helicopters and five planes were deployed to battle the fire.