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Thousands were evacuated as wildfires raged out of control in Spain and France

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Firefighters battled runaway wildfires in Spain and France, including one whose flames reached two popular Atlantic beaches on Sunday as Europe was smothered under an unusually extreme heatwave.

So far there have been no fire-related deaths in France or Spain, but authorities in Madrid have blamed soaring temperatures for hundreds of deaths.

And two huge fires that consumed pine forests in south-west France for six days have forced the evacuation of about 16,200 people.

In dramatic images posted online, a wall of black smoke was rolling towards the Atlantic Ocean along a stretch of Bordeaux coastline treasured by surfers from around the world. Flames raced over trees bordering a wide sandy beach while planes flew low to suck water from the ocean.

Elsewhere, smoke blanketed the skyline above a mass of scorched trees in images shared by French firefighters.

In Spain, firefighters, aided by military brigades, tried to put out over 30 blazes that were engulfing forests across the country.

Spain’s National Defense Ministry said “the majority” of its fire-fighting aircraft had been deployed to reach the blazes, many of which were located in rugged, hilly terrain difficult for ground crews to access.

Drought conditions in the Iberian Peninsula had left them particularly vulnerable to wildfires – some caused by lightning, others by accident and some intentional – after a mass of hot air from Africa blew up.

Fire season has hit parts of Europe earlier than usual this year, after a dry, hot spring the EU blames on climate change. Some countries are experiencing extended droughts, while many are hit by heat waves.

Spain’s second heatwave of the summer saw repeated peaks of 43C in many areas.

From July 10-15, 360 deaths were attributed to high temperatures, according to Spain’s Carlos III institute, which records temperature-related deaths every day. This was compared to 27 temperature-related deaths over the previous six days.

Almost all of Spain was on alert for another day of high temperatures on Sunday, while around half of France was on heatwave warnings, where scorching temperatures are expected to rise higher on Monday.

The French government has stepped up efforts to protect people in nursing homes, the homeless and other vulnerable populations after an intense heatwave and poor planning caused nearly 15,000 deaths in 2003, particularly among the elderly.

Meanwhile, the fire in La Teste-de-Buch in the Bordeaux region had forced 10,000 people to flee, while many flock to the nearby Atlantic coast for holidays.

The Gironde regional government said on Sunday afternoon that “the situation remains very unfavorable due to the gusty winds that have fueled further surges overnight”.

“The emergency services are prioritizing protecting the population, preserving sensitive areas and limiting the spread of the fire,” authorities said.

A second fire near the town of Landiras, south of a valley of Bordeaux vineyards, had forced authorities to evacuate 4,100 people this week.

Authorities said one flank was brought under control by dumping white sand along a 2km stretch. But another cross remained unchecked.

People forced to flee shared their concerns about their abandoned homes with local media, and local officials organized special trips for some to retrieve pets left behind in the rush to get to safety.

In total, more than 40 square miles of land has been burned in the two fires.

Emergency officials warned that high temperatures and winds on Sunday and Monday would hamper efforts to stop the fires from spreading further.

“We have to be very careful and very humble because the day is going to be very hot. We don’t have a favorable weather window,” said regional fire official Eric Florensan on Radio France-Bleu.

Some of the most worrying fires in Spain have been concentrated in the western regions of Extremadura and Castilla y Leon.

Firefighters had been unable to stop the advance of a fire that broke out near the town of Caceres, threatening Monfrague National Park and preventing 200 people from returning to their homes.

Another fire in southern Spain near the city of Malaga had forced the evacuation of another 2,500 people. There were other fires near the central city of Avila in north-western Galicia.

Hungary, Croatia and the Greek island of Crete also battled wildfires this week.

Searing temperatures have reached as far north as Britain, where the UK Met Office issued its first extreme heat “red warning” for Monday and Tuesday, when temperatures in southern England could reach 40C for the first time.

That would still be relatively tolerable compared to the 47C recorded in Pinhao in northern Portugal on Wednesday, which set a new national record.

https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/thousands-evacuated-as-wildfires-rage-out-of-control-in-spain-and-france-41846612.html Thousands were evacuated as wildfires raged out of control in Spain and France

Fry Electronics Team

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