Spain's drought deepens fears of looming wildfire season

Drone footage shot by ITV News in Catalonia, northern Spain, captures the gravity of the drought. ITV News' James Mates reports

A prolonged drought is taking its grip in Spain, where wildfires have begun wreaking havoc unseasonably early.

Already, in Spain up to six million people are being affected by restrictions on water use as the dry spell squeezes resources.

Over a thousand residents in Castellón fled their homes as wildfires ripped across hundreds of acres of the region.

Though fires are commonplace in Spain during the summer, their appearance in March is worrying authorities and climate change experts.

Firefighters have had to put out blazes ravaging thousands of acres of Spain. Credit: ITV News

Just over a week ago, Spain officially entered a period of long-term drought.

The country's national forecaster, AEMET, said statistics showed Spain entered a long-duration drought at the end of 2022.

The first three months of 2023 show no major signs of change, owing to high temperatures and low rainfall over the past three years.

AEMET spokesman Rubén del Campo said: “The first available predictions for the summer of 2023 point to a likely situation of temperatures once again above normal.”

He added in the coming summer “the risk of fires could be very high given the high temperatures".

But Mr del Campo pointed out that the country has experienced severe droughts before in 2017, 2005 and at the end of the 1990s and 1980s.

“To put it in context, we´re in a drought but there have been worse droughts, which is not to say this will not be important,” he told a press conference.

Some regions of Spain have not seen proper rain in three years. Credit: ITV News

In some of the hardest hit villages, locals have been turning to ceremonial rain prayers, asking God to open the heavens.

Globally, 2022 was the hottest, and sixth driest year since records began.Last winter was the fifth consecutive year to be declared "warm" or "very warm".

This, combined with rainfall for the year was 16% below average, has led to hostile land for farmers as well as record low levels of water in the countries reservoirs.

On Thursday the British government unveiled a new Net Xero plan, with hopes to move from gas to cleaner energy “over the next decade or two,” according to Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps.

The plan has been criticised by campaigners for not going far enough to reach Britain’s climate goals or significantly cut household energy bills in the short-term.

The proposals see the government stress its £20 billion investment in carbon capture technology and backing for new projects, as well as £160 million for port infrastructure to help expand offshore wind.

It comes as the Climate Change Committee (CCC), which advises the government's climate policy, said Westminster's 'lacklustre' planning has left the UK exposed to a host of climate-related threats, in a new report.

Last summer was an example and a warning, said one of the report's authors.

They referenced the record-breaking 40 degrees Celsius temperatures, 1,000 heat-related deaths, 20% of hospital operations cancelled, rail disruption, widespread drought and wildfires that destroyed dozens of homes.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC), which advises the government's climate policy, looked at how prepared sectors were for issues such as food security, water supply, transport, health, business, agriculture and finance were.

It found adaptation efforts were “lacking across the board”.

Of the 45 adaptation outcomes the government wants to achieve, the CCC said only five have fully credible plans. It added there is no evidence of effective measures being implemented in any of them.

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