Wildfires rage from Portugal to Croatia as heatwave sweeps through Europe

ITV News Correspondent Martha Fairlie reports on the scorching heatwave that has sparked wildfires across Europe

A heatwave spreading across large swathes of Europe is fuelling wildfires in Portugal, France and Spain, as temperatures are pushed into the mid-40Cs in some countries.

More than 3,000 firefighters in Portugal are battling dozens of blazes, with hundreds of people forced to flee their homes in Leiria, the worst hit area, in the centre of the country.

According to authorities, some 10,000 hectares have been scorched and 135 people injured this week.

Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa says that with temperatures expected to remain unusually high for the coming days, his government plans to extend a state of alert for wildfires until Sunday.

A firefighter working to prevent a forest fire from flaring anew in the village of Rebolo, near Ansiao central Portugal. Credit: AP

Temperatures in the interior of the country were forecast to hit 44C during the day as the mass of hot and dry air blown up from Africa continues to linger over the western edge of the Iberian Peninsula.

In June, 96% of Portugal was classified as being in either “extreme” or “severe” drought.

Across the border in western Spain, a fire that started in the Extremadura region on Tuesday swept into Salamanca province, prompting the evacuation of nearly 50 children from a summer camp on Thursday.

More than 4,000 hectares of land had been burned, regional authorities said, with temperatures likely to top 44C in large parts of southern Spain.

In France, two fires raged out of control in the region around Bordeaux in the south-west of the country for a third consecutive day.

This was despite the efforts of 1,000 firefighters and water-dumping planes to contain them. The fires have destroyed more than 3,850 hectares of forest and grassland in the region, the regional emergency said.

It added that firefighters struggled to contain the fire because of high winds and difficulty accessing the heart of the fires.

More than 6,000 people were evacuated from campgrounds and villages in recent days.

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

Elsewhere, in Croatia, troops were called in to help firefighters contain three major wildfires around Zadar and Sibenek.

In the UK, the heatwave is forecast to peak on Tuesday, with highs of 36C forecast.

Heatwaves have become more frequent, more intense, and longer-lasting because of climate change.

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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