Scorching heatwave sparks wildfires in Europe

STORY: Over 20 wildfires raged across Portugal, and several burned in western Spain on Wednesday… In France too, where about 800 firefighters, supported by six water-bomber aircraft, were battling wildfires in the southwest…

all amid a record-busting heatwave across Europe that meteorologists expect to push temperatures in many areas well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

The World Meteorological Organisation warned this week the heatwave was spreading and intensifying in large parts of Europe.

Nearly all of mainland Portugal was on red alert for extreme heat conditions as firefighters struggled to put out flames.

In western Spain, a few hundred villagers were evacuated overnight as a precaution and as firefighters continued to battle a blaze that swept into neighboring regions this week.

Spain’s meteorological agency AEMET said that temperatures could soon surpass the country’s previous record of nearly 118 degrees Fahrenheit set in August last year.

And in France’s southwestern region – home of the famed Bordeaux wine country – more than 2,700 hectares have been burnt so far. Roads have been closed and thousands of residents and tourists evacuated.

Meteo France weather service forecaster François Jobard said recent trends are worrisome.

“Compared to the 1970s and the 1980s, heatwaves were rare, meaning once every 10 years. Now, since the 2010s, we have a recurrence of heatwaves and an acceleration that is undeniable. We have almost one to three heatwaves per year, while in the 1970s and 1980s, it’s once every 10 years.”

In Italy, after facing its hottest June ever since 1800, temperatures are expected to rise to 107 degrees in many cities.

The country’s longest river – the Po – is also experiencing its worst drought in 70 years, jeopardizing irrigation and worrying locals.

Meanwhile, in Madrid, Spain zookeepers scrambled to keep the animals cool, giving some frozen popsicles for relief.

The heatwave there is expected to peak on Thursday.

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