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Europe burns as heatwave shatters temperature records

#Europe #burns #heatwave #shatters #temperature #records

A fierce heatwave in western Europe has left much of the continent withered under a scorching sun, fueling wildfires and threatening to break more temperature records on Tuesday.

In Britain, forecasters said the current national record of 38.7 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit) could be broken and 40 degrees Celsius exceeded for the first time, with experts blaming climate change and predicting more frequent extreme weather events.

On Monday, 38.1C recorded in Suffolk in eastern England made it the hottest day of the year and the third hottest day on record.

Across the Channel in France, a host of cities and towns recorded their highest-ever temperatures on Monday, the national weather bureau said.

The mercury reached 39.3C in Brest on Brittany’s Atlantic coast in the far north-west of the country, beating a previous record of 35.1C set in 2002.

Saint-Brieuc on the Channel coast hit 39.5°C, beating a previous record of 38.1°C, and the western city of Nantes recorded 42°C, beating a decades-old high of 40.3°C set in 1949 .

Firefighters in south-west France were still struggling in the sweltering heat to contain two massive blazes that have wreaked widespread destruction.

For nearly a week, armies of firefighters and a fleet of depth-bomb planes have been battling fires that have mobilized much of France’s fire-fighting capacity.

– Vacationers evacuated –

Ireland recorded temperatures of 33C in Dublin – the highest since 1887 – while in the Netherlands temperatures hit 35.4C in the southern city of Westdorpe. It wasn’t a record, but higher temperatures are expected there on Tuesday.

Neighboring Belgium was also expecting temperatures of 40C and above.

The European heatwave is the second to sweep parts of the south-west of the continent in recent weeks.

European Commission researchers, meanwhile, said nearly half (46 percent) of the EU’s territory was facing a warning-level drought. Eleven percent were on alert, and the crop was already suffering from water shortages.

Fires in France, Greece, Portugal and Spain have destroyed thousands of hectares of land.

An area nine kilometers long and eight kilometers wide near France’s Dune de Pilat, Europe’s tallest sand dune, was still ablaze, turning picturesque landscapes, popular campsites and pristine beaches into searing chaos.

The fire literally “blew things up,” according to its ferocity, said Marc Vermeulen, chief of the local fire department. “Pine trunks of 40 years burst.”

A total of 8,000 people were evacuated from near the dune on Monday as a precaution as shifting winds blew thick smoke into residential areas, officials said.

Patricia Monteil hastily packed her car and said she was going to her daughter’s house in another part of the district. “But if that also bursts into flames, I don’t know what to do.”

Around 32,000 tourists or residents were forced to leave France, many of them in emergency shelters.

On Monday night, prosecutors in the southwestern city of Bordeaux said a man suspected of starting one of the fires in the area had been arrested.

The two fires in the region have destroyed nearly 17,000 hectares of land.

In Avigon in the south-east, a fire that started last Thursday revived on Monday, local firefighters reported, while a separate fire broke out in north-west Brittany.

In Spain, a fire in the northwestern province of Zamora claimed the life of a 69-year-old shepherd, regional authorities said. A firefighter died in the same area on Sunday.

Later on Monday it was reported that an office worker in his 50s in Madrid had died of heat stroke.

Authorities have reported that around 20 wildfires are still raging from the south to Galicia in the far north-west, where the blazes have destroyed around 4,500 hectares of land.

– ‘Enjoy the Sunshine’ –

The fires in Portugal claimed two more lives in the northern Vila Real region after a car carrying two villagers swerved off the road as they appeared to be trying to flee a burn zone, local officials said.

“We found the car and these two people, aged around 70, completely burned,” Murca Mayor Mario Artur Lopez told SIC Noticias TV. The victims were from the nearby village of Penabeice, he added.

Almost the whole country was on high alert for wildfires, despite a slight drop in temperatures, which reached 47C last Thursday – a record for July.

The fires have already killed two more people there, injured around 60 and destroyed between 12,000 and 15,000 hectares of land.

In Britain, the government, already in a bind after a series of scandals that forced Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign, has been accused of taking the situation too lightly.

Johnson was criticized for not attending an emergency meeting on the crisis on Sunday, instead throwing a farewell party at his state-funded country retreat.

And medics condemned Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab’s comments, which appeared to minimize the threat from the extreme heat, as he told Brits to “enjoy the sunshine”.

The Sun tabloid titled its coverage of the heat ‘British Bake Off’, noting that the ‘scorcher’ was making Britain hotter than Ibiza, where temperatures reached a comparatively low 30C.

Due to the extreme temperatures, flights at Luton Airport, near London, and at the Royal Air Force base, Brize Norton, have been suspended due to “faults” on the runway, with no disruption expected on Tuesday.

Trains have been canceled and schools closed in the affected areas.

In Brighton, on the south coast of England, bank clerk Abu Bakr put the heatwave into perspective.

“I’m from Sudan,” he said. “Forty, forty-five degrees is just the norm. That’s as good as it gets.”

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#Europe #burns #heatwave #shatters #temperature #records

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