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A forest fire in Ribadavia, Ourense, Spain yesterday. Rosa Veiga
Climate Change

Wildfires spreading in European countries hit by second heatwave in a matter of weeks

Heatwaves are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change.

A HEATWAVE SWEEPING across southwestern Europe peaked today in Spain, with scorching temperatures fuelling stubborn wildfires that ravaged several countries.

Temperatures soared in Greece, Spain and Portugal, and the heatwave is expected to continue in Britain and France into next week.

In Ireland, high temperatures tomorrow and Saturday are expected to range in the low to mid 20s. This will rise to the mid to upper 20s on Sunday and possibly reaching the 30s on Monday.

A high temperature advisory came into effect yesterday with Met Éireann cautioning that daytime temperatures could exceed 30 degrees Celsius in some areas next week.

Climate science shows heatwaves are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change. This is the second heatwave to hit parts of Europe in a matter of weeks. 

The mass of hot air pushed temperatures into the mid-40 degrees Celsius in parts of Spain again for the second day in a row.

The mercury hit 45 degrees today near the central city of Avila as the suffocating temperatures continued.

Yesterday, the city of Almonte in the southern region of Andalusia recorded Spain’s highest temperature that day – 45.6C.

Spain’s state meteorological agency AEMET said it expects temperatures to ease slightly tomorrow in some parts of the country, although it predicts the heatwave will continue “at least” until Monday.

The health ministry told people to drink plenty of fluids, wear light clothes and stay in the shade or air-conditioning.

It also recommended people avoid caffeine and alcohol and reduce “intense” physical activity outdoors during the hottest hours.

‘Major’ fires 

A fire in Spain which started in the eastern region of Extremadura on Monday has so far ravaged at least 4,000 hectares of land, local officials said.

Between January 1 and July 3, more than 70,300 hectares of forest have gone up in smoke in Spain, the government has said – almost double the average of the past 10 years.

Italy, Croatia, France and Portugal all reported forest fires linked to the heat this week.

In Greece, a helicopter helping to fight a forest fire on the island of Samos on Wednesday crashed into the Aegean Sea, killing two of its four crew members, the coastguard said.

The fire continued to burn today, fanned by strong winds.

In Portugal, over 2,000 firefighters were battling dozens of wildfires across Portugal, including four deemed “major”.

One person died in a forest blaze, authorities said Wednesday, after a body was found in a burned area in the northern region of Aveiro.

Around 60 others have been injured, some 860 people evacuated and roughly 60 homes destroyed or damaged.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa earlier warned that today would be the “most serious” day of the heat wave because temperatures were expected to rise and winds were stronger.

“Today is the day where we have to be the most careful,” he said.

In June, 96% of Portugal was classified as being in either “extreme” or “severe” drought. 

The first half of this year has been marked by heatwaves and hot extremes in locations around the world.

In March and April, India and Pakistan recorded temperatures in the high 40s that far surpassed expectations for spring, while the Arctic and Antarctic recorded major temperature increases that were also far above the normal level for that time of year.

In mid-May and again in June, Spain was hit with hot weather that experts said was not uncommon in and of itself, but its early, intense onset was alarming. 

China experienced its worst heatwave in decades this month after rainfall hit record levels in June, with similarly high temperatures in Japan.

Additional reporting by Orla Dwyer

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