Severe bushfires force thousands in southwestern France to flee homes

Wildfires raged in southwestern France and Spain on Saturday, forcing thousands to flee their homes, as blistering summer temperatures alerted authorities in parts of Europe.

More than 12,200 people had been evacuated from France’s Gironde region on Saturday morning as more than 1,000 firefighters tried to bring the flames under control, regional authorities said in a statement.

In recent weeks, forest fires have spread through France, but also in other European countries, including Portugal and Spain. In the Gironde, almost 10,000 hectares of land were on fire on Saturday, compared to 7,300 hectares on Friday.

Blazes also fought in Spain

In neighboring Spain, firefighters battled a series of fires on Saturday after days of unusually high temperatures reaching 45.7C.

A forest fire was observed on Saturday near a residential area in Alhaurin de la Torre, Malaga, Spain. (Gregorio Marrero/The Associated Press)

The nearly week-long heat wave has led to 360 heat-related deaths, according to figures from the Carlos III Health Institute.

More than 3,000 people have been displaced from their homes as a result of a major bushfire near Mijas, a town in the southern province of Malaga popular with northern European tourists, the region’s emergency services said in a tweet early Saturday.

Many were received in a provincial sports center.

“Police drove up and down the road with their sirens on and everyone was told to leave. Just get out. No instructions where to go,” said British retiree John Pretty, 83.

“It’s scary … because you don’t know what’s happening,” said Belgian resident Jean-Marie Vandelanotte, 68.

A forest fire near Casas de Miravete, Spain, burns on Saturday. (Isabel Infantes/Reuters)

Elsewhere in Spain, plumes of black smoke rose into the sky near Casas de Miravete in the Extremadura region as helicopters dumped water on flames that have scorched 3,000 acres, forced the evacuation of two villages and threatened to reach Monfrague National Park.

There were also fires in the central region of Castile and León and in Galicia in the north.

Temperature lighting in Portugal

There was some calm for firefighters in Portugal, where temperatures dropped across most of the country on Saturday after hitting around 40°C in recent days.

A helicopter was seen falling on a forest fire near the village of Bustelo in northern Portugal on Saturday. (Patricia De Melo Moreiera/AFP/Getty Images)

“We’ve had major fires and we don’t want them to be reactivated…. We will remain extremely vigilant this weekend,” Emergency and Civil Protection Authority commander Andre Fernandes told reporters.

A total of 39,550 hectares were ravaged by forest fires from the beginning of the year to mid-June, more than triple the area devastated during the same period last year, according to data from the Portuguese Institute for the Conservation of Nature and the Environment. forests.

An area equivalent to nearly two-thirds of that burned down in fires in the past week.

The Portuguese Ministry of Health said 238 people had died as a result of the heat wave between July 7 and 13, most of them elderly with underlying conditions.

Forest fire in Morocco

Across the Mediterranean from Europe, fires in Morocco ripped through more than 2,000 hectares of forest in the northern areas of Larache, Ouazzane, Taza and Tetouan, killing at least one person, local authorities said.

Firefighters are fighting a forest fire near the Moroccan city of Ksar el-Kebir in the Larache region on Friday. (Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images)

More than 1,000 households were evacuated. Water-carrying planes helped put out most of the fires Friday night, though firefighters still struggled to extinguish three hot spots near Larache.

In Britain, the national weather forecaster issued its first red “extreme heat” warning for parts of England on Monday and Tuesday.

The highest temperature recorded in Britain was 38.7 C, recorded in Cambridge on July 25, 2019.

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