Eery weather map showing France with the apparent cartoonish image of a screaming face in the middle of the hottest areas of the country.
01 Jul 2019

Extreme heat and forest fires plague Europe

The extreme heat in Europe has brought record temperatures, forest fires and power outages in many areas - the heat wave has claimed several lives and led to evacuations of homes.

The heat has claimed at least eight people's lives throughout Europe.

Fires have been a problem in several areas in Spain and France. A fire that started on Friday night in the town of Almorox, west of Madrid, has grown to 1,500 hectares and has led to the evacuation of a village.

Another forest fire rages near Toledo, south of the capital.

At the same time, during Saturday, firefighters finally got control of the large forest fire in northeastern Catalonia that broke out on Wednesday and spread with the help of the extreme heat and strong winds.

In the Gard region of France, several fires are also raging. Local media reports that a man, described as psychologically unstable, has been arrested for starting fires. Theman was arrested in the southern French region in the village of Gallargues-le-Montueux, where on Friday the thermometer measured 45.9 degrees Celsius, the highest temperature so far recorded in France.

In Gard, at least 15 firefighters and several police officers were injured while tackling a forest fire..

A total of about 40  forest fires are underway in France.

At least eight people have died, including a 17-year-old agricultural worker in Spain and a 72-year-old homeless man in Italy. The official death toll in France is four, Italy two and in Spain two.

Also in Germany, several heat-related deaths are reported, especially among the elderly.

In various parts of Europe's cities, power cuts also occurred when the load in the electricity grids spiked from air conditioners being over used.

Firefighters in Spain have been battling a major wildfire that probably started after a heap of manure self-ignited amid the intense European heat wave, reports CNN. 

Around 10,000 acres of forest and other vegetation were affected by the blaze near Tarragona in the country's north-east, according to the Catalan regional government.

Authorities said the fire likely began when an "improperly managed" pile of manure self-combusted in the heat, causing sparks.

Spontaneous ignitions can occur when flammable materials, such as piles of hay, compost or manure heat up to a temperature high enough to cause combustion, according to the US National Park Service.

The Catalan fire brigade said around 350 fire crew, 12 fire engines and a number of vehicles with large water tanks were at the scene.

Seven aircraft, two hydroplanes and heavy machinery were also deployed, the fire service said.

Locals were advised to stay indoors and keep their windows shut to avoid inhaling smoke.

The firefighters said the blaze is one of the worst in Catalonia in the last 20 years. They warned it could spread to as much as two times its current area because of the harsh weather conditions and tough local terrain, which includes steep slopes and deep ridges.

Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic all recorded their highest-ever June temperatures on Wednesday.

Climate scientists have warned that heat waves such as this one are becoming more frequent and increasingly severe because of the climate crisis. Météo-France said the frequency of such events is expected to double by 2050.