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SUNDAY, October 02, 2022
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Europe simmers as Britain and France brace for record-breaking heatwave

Europe simmers as Britain and France brace for record-breaking heatwave

TUESDAY, July 19, 2022

Much of Europe is baking in a heatwave that scientists say is consistent with climate change and has pushed temperatures into the mid-40s Celsius (over 110 Fahrenheit) in some regions, with wildfires raging across tinder-dry countryside in Portugal, Spain and France.

France braced for what could become one of the hottest days ever recorded with temperatures reaching and even exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104°F) in coastal regions cherished by tourists, as wildfires intensified in the west and south.

Britain was also braced for temperatures to hit 40C for the first time this week, with ministers urging the public to stay at home as the heatwave caused train services to be cancelled, one London airport to shut its runway and some schools to close.

Temperatures in some parts of southern Europe began to ease over the weekend but thousands of firefighters across the region still battled to contain hundreds of wildfires and authorities said the risk of further blazes remained extremely high.

Spain was facing the eighth and last day of a more than week-long heat wave on Monday, which caused more than 510 heat-related deaths, according to estimates from the Carlos III Health Institute.

Belgium and Germany were among the countries expecting the heatwave to hit them in the coming days.

The EU said it was monitoring closely wildfires raging in southern member states on Monday, sending a firefighting plane to Slovenia over the weekend adding to recent deployments to France and Portugal.

Parisians sought shade, cold drinks and ice cream on Monday as a heatwave struck the French capital.

"We are drinking a lot because it's super hot and we try to stay in the shade because with the sun, it's hard," said Nohe Khaldi, a student from Eastern France.

Some tourists decided to visit a museum in the afternoon, to avoid the hottest hours of the day.

"We've come to the museum partly because I wanted to come, and partly because it takes us out of the sun," said Fiona Lilgert from England.

As a part of a heatwave programme, some city halls open cool rooms to allow elderly and frail people to cool down.

Renee Clair lives on the top floor of a building and she said the temperature in her apartment was too hot for her to remain inside.

"I came because I was starting to faint," she said.

Shops in the town centre of Redon, in western France, remained almost empty on Monday as customers sought to flee from a freak heatwave that pushed temperatures up to almost 40 degrees Celsius in much of the country.

On Monday, the usually lively promenade in Redon was almost empty, and food store owner Anne-Laury Siong said she barely had a customer enter her shop's doors.

"We stay open because we have to, but it's true that we want to close because there's really no one, not a cat on the street," Siong said.

Weather forecasters have warned that the current scalding episode, which started last week, could be one of the most intense in France’s history and could last until late July.

"We're really acutely aware of the fact that these sorts of conditions are going to become more and more of a common event," said British tourist Aaron Smallshaw.

Dozens of fires have erupted across Spain, scorching acres of land and forcing authorities to evacuate people from their homes.

Firefighters struggled on Monday to control a wildfire in Catalonia which had blackened more than 1,600 hectares (4,000 acres) of land.

The fire at El Pont de Vilomara, about 56 kilometres from Barcelona, flared up again on Monday afternoon in Bages after it had been stabilised earlier by firefighters, who damped down charred areas to prevent further outbreaks.

Catalan emergency services said more than 350 firefighters were working to contain the blaze with 100 planes and fire tenders joining the fight.

Catalan regional leader Pere Aragones asked the population to be extremely cautious in the coming days and warned the fire alert will remain at high risk.

Elsewhere in Spain, dozens of fires scorched thousands of acres of land, forcing authorities to evacuate people from their homes.

The heatwave, which began on July 10, has pushed temperatures into the 40s (Celsius) (104 Fahrenheit) increasing the risk of wildfires.

A raging wildfire with a huge plume of dense smoke dominated the horizon in Castilla y Leon, in Spain's Zamora region on Monday.

With fires burning thousands of hectares in Galicia, Castille and Leon, Catalonia, Extremadura and Andalusia, Spain mourned the death of one firefighter in the northwestern province of Zamora on Sunday evening. Almost the entire country faces an extreme fire risk.

More than 70,000 hectares (173,000 acres) have burnt in Spain so far this year, the worst year of the last decade, according to official data. Last month, a huge wildfire in Sierra de la Culebra, Castille and Leon, ravaged about 30,000 hectares of land.

Spain also reported a second death caused by a wildfire. A 69-year-old was found dead on Monday in Ferreruela, in a burned-out area, emergency authorities said. Local media reported the victim was a farmer.