Europe swelters as scorching heatwave sparks wildfires across continent

Fires began near the towns of Landiras and La Teste-de-Buch. Credit: AP

A scorching heatwave has hit Europe, bringing droughts and forest fires amid a heatwave that meteorologists expect will push temperatures into the high 40Cs in some areas.

In Portugal, Civil Protection commander André Fernandes said that multiple fires have caused the evacuation of more than 600 people.

About 120 people needed medical treatment, with two people - one civilian and one firefighter - suffering serious injuries, Mr Fernandes said.

A forest fire closes on a house in the village of Bemposta, near Ansiao, central Portugal. Credit: AP

Nearly 750 firefighters were combating two blazes in Leiria, where temperatures soared to 45C, while in the whole of mainland Portugal there were 2,751 firefighters on the ground, backed by dozens of aircraft.

Portugal has long experienced fatal forest fires. In 2017, wildfires killed more than 100 people.

No one has died from a wildfire since then as the country has improved its forest management and firefighting strategies.

A wildfire near Landiras, southwestern France. Credit: SDIS33 via AP

In France, meanwhile, around 800 firefighters were battling two raging wildfires in the southwest of the country, which have already prompted the evacuation of thousands of campers.

The fires began on Tuesday near the towns of Landiras and La Teste-de-Buch, and firefighters hadn’t been able to contain them by Wednesday morning.

The two fires have destroyed more than 1,800 hectares of terrain, according to the emergency service.

A woman fills buckets with water for local residents trying to stop a forest fire from reaching their homes in Figueiras, central Portugal. Credit: AP

In southwestern Turkey, a blaze erupted in an area close to the village of Mesudiye, near the Aegean Sea resort of Datca, and was moving in the direction of some homes in the area, the provincial governor’s office said.

It added that at least nine water-dropping helicopters and five planes were deployed to battle the fire.

In the UK, forecasters are warning that the public is set to swelter in soaring temperatures and “tropical” nights as the heatwave grips early next week.

It warns that it could cause health problems across the population, not just among people vulnerable to extreme heat, leading to potential serious illness or danger to life. Widespread disruption, including road closures and cancellations and delays to rail and air travel are also possible, as temperatures look set to soar into the mid-30s or above.

European Union officials issued a warning last week that climate change is behind the extremely dry and hot summer so far on the continent, urging local authorities to brace for wildfires.

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