Wildfires blaze in France and Portugal as heatwaves scorch Europe

As Europe deals with intense temperatures wildfires move across France and Portugal - Ellie Pitt reports.

Firefighters are struggling to contain huge wildfires in France and Portugal as Europe suffers under a severe heatwave and drought.

Meanwhile, in Switzerland, authorities have begun moving endangered fish populations out of some creeks that are running dry.

Farmers and consumers across Europe are also being hit hard by the climate - the drought is causing a loss of agricultural products at a time when supply shortages and Russia’s war against Ukraine have caused inflation to spike.


In France, which is enduring its worst drought on record, flames raged through pine forests overnight. Blazes illuminated the sky with an intense orange light in the Gironde region, which was already ravaged by flames last month, and in neighboring Landes. More than 68 square kilometres have burned since Tuesday.

The wildfires have already forced the evacuation of about 10,000 people and destroyed at least 16 houses.

It's the nation's fourth heat wave of the year as it faces what the government describes as the country’s worst drought on record. Temperatures were expected to reach 40 C (104 F) on Thursday.

Firefighters tackling a blaze near Hostens in France. Credit: AP


A national park in Portugal’s highest hill range, the Serra da Estrela, was also being ravaged by a wildfire.

Some 1,500 firefighters and 12 aircraft were deployed to fight it but the wind-driven blaze, 250 kilometres northeast of Lisbon, was very hard to reach, with inaccessible peaks and deep ravines. The fire has charred 10,000 hectares of woodland.


In Switzerland, a drought and high temperatures have endangered fish populations. In Hausen, in the canton of Zurich, officials caught hundreds of fish, many of them brown trout, in the almost dried-up Heischerbach, Juchbach and Muehlebach creeks.

The creatures were anesthetised with electric shocks and then immediately placed them in a water tank enriched with oxygen, local media reported.

Later, the fish were taken to creeks that still carry enough water.

Poland and Germany

Along the Oder River, which flows from the Czech Republic north into the Baltic Sea, volunteers have been collecting dead fish that have washed ashore in Poland and Germany.

A chub and other dead fish in the Oder River. Credit: AP

Piotr Nieznanski, the conservation policy director at WWF Poland, said it appears that a toxic chemical was released into the water by an industry and the low water levels caused by the drought has made conditions far more dangerous for the fish.

“A tragic event is happening along the Oder River, an international river, and there is no transparent information about what is going on,” he said, calling on government authorities to investigate.

Dead fishes drift in the Oder River near Brieskow-Finkenheerd, eastern Germany. Credit: AP

People living along the river have been warned not to swim in the water or even touch it. Poland’s state water management body said the drought and high temperatures can cause even small amounts of pollution to lead to an ecological disaster but it has not identified the source of the pollution. The water level along Germany’s Rhine River was at risk of falling so low that it could become difficult to transport goods - including critical energy items like coal and gasoline.


In northern Serbia, the dry bed of the Conopljankso reservoir is now littered with dead fish who were unable to survive the drought.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know