Wildfires spread across France and Spain as Europe swelters

In both France and Spain, fierce heat fuelled the wildfires, ITV News Correspondent Ben Chapman reports

France has deployed more water-bombing planes and hundreds more firefighters to combat spreading wildfires that are being fed by hot winds from a searing heatwave scorching much of Europe.

The increase in resource comes as authorities in southwest France plan to evacuate more towns and move around 3,500 people out of the wildfire's path.

A total of nine water-dropping planes are now battling the flames, while a 1,700-strong force of firefighters battle the blaze day and night in the Gironde region's tinder-dry pine forests.

A firefighter cries near a wildfire in the Losacio area in north western Spain on Sunday. Credit: Emilio Fraile/Europa Press via AP

“The fire is literally exploding,” said Marc Vermeulen, the regional fire service chief who described tree trunks shattering as flames consumed them, sending burning embers into the air and further spreading the blazes.

“We’re facing extreme and exceptional circumstances,” he said.

Further south in Spain, two people have been killed in the fires that the country's prime minister linked to global warning, saying, “Climate change kills.”

The body of a 69-year-old sheep farmer was discovered on Monday in the same area where a 62-year-old firefighter died a day earlier when he was trapped by flames in the northwestern Zamora province.

More than 30 forest fires around Spain have forced the evacuation of thousands of people and blackened 220 square kilometres (85 square miles) of forest and scrub.

Passengers on a train through Zamora got a frightening, up-close look at a blaze, when their train came to a stop in the countryside.

Video of the unscheduled stop showed about a dozen passengers in a carriage becoming alarmed as they looked out of the windows at the flames encroaching on both sides of the track.

Passengers were met with an alarming sight when this train stopped in Zamora, Spain

In both France and Spain, fierce heat is fuelling the blazes, and forecasters warned of temperatures above 40C for Monday. “I left my country under fire, literally under fire," Teresa Ribera, Spain’s minister for ecological transition, said as she attended talks on climate change in Berlin on Monday. She warned of “terrifying prospects still for the days to come," after more than 10 days of temperatures over 40 C (104 F), cooling only moderately at night.

It is unprecedented to see a heatwave this intense so early in the season, reports Ben Chapman

Heatwaves and drought tied to climate change have made wildfires harder to fight.

Scientists say climate change will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive. According to Spain’s Carlos III Institute, which records daily temperature-related fatalities, 237 deaths were attributed to high temperatures from July 10-14.

That was compared to 25 temperature-related deaths the previous week. The heatwave in Spain is forecast to ease on Tuesday, but the respite will be brief as temperatures rise again on Wednesday, especially in the tinder-dry western Extremadura region. In Portugal, much cooler weather on Monday helped fire crews make progress against blazes.

More than 600 firefighters were attending four major fires in northern Portugal.

A wildfire near Landiras, southwestern France. Credit: SDIS 33 via AP

Meanwhile in the UK, the nation's first red extreme heat warning came into effect on Monday.

Temperatures soared into the high 30s in some areas on Monday, while Tuesday is predicted to be even hotter, with temperatures possibly reaching 40C. That would be a new record for the UK, beating the 38.7C seen in Cambridge in 2019. The rise in temperatures has forced the UK Health Security Agency to issue a level 4 heat-health alert – described as an “emergency” – while the Met Office has issued the UK’s first red extreme heat warning for a large part of England, with both covering Monday and Tuesday.

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