Fires sweep across southwest Europe, red alerts announced
Thousands of hectares of land and numerous firefighters were lost to the raging fires since the start of the week.
Saturday marks the sixth day of a summer heatwave which braced Southwestern Europe for new temperature records early next week. The heatwave has triggered devastating fires across the continent.
Firefighters in France, Portugal, and Spain, as well as Greece, battled forest blazes that have destroyed thousands of hectares of land and killed numerous firefighters since the start of the week. "The fire is still not under control," said Ronan Leaustic, an official in Arcachon in southwest France's Gironde region. Since Tuesday, firefighters have battled two forest fires that have destroyed 9,000 hectares of land.
Meteo France said temperatures will range between 35 °C and 40 °C in the south of France on Saturday, noting that new heat records are expected on Monday. French Alps mountaineers were asked by the authorities to postpone their trips set to ascend Mont Blanc, Europe's highest mountain, due to frequent rock falls caused by "exceptional climatic conditions" and "drought".
The warning follows an occurrence at Italy's largest Alpine glacier when, at the beginning of the month, a portion broke away, causing ice and debris to fly down the mountain and killing 11 people in a catastrophe that authorities blamed on climate change.
The meteorological agency in Portugal predicted highs of 42 °C and said it wouldn't be until next week when temperatures fell below 40 °C. However, the civil defense took advantage of a tiny drop in temperature following Thursday's July record high of 47 °C to attempt to put out one last significant fire in the north of the nation. Civil defense chief Andre Fernandes cautioned during a midday briefing that "the risk of fires remains very high," adding, "This is a weekend of extreme vigilance."
Fernandes made the remarks after an air tanker combating fires in northern Portugal crashed on Friday, killing the pilot. This followed the incident off of the coast of Greece where a firefighting helicopter crashed and claimed the lives of two individuals.
The national meteorological agency in Spain kept the country on varying degrees of alert, issuing warnings for temperatures as high as 44 °C in some areas. In various regions of the nation, dozens of forest fires are still raging.
A crisis committee of government ministers was convening in the United Kingdom later on Saturday after the state meteorological office announced the nation's first-ever "red" alert for high heat, trying to warn that there is a "risk to life." According to the Met Office, temperatures in southern England may reach 40 °C for the first time either Monday or Tuesday.
According to the Met Office, temperatures in southern England may reach 40 °C for the first time either Monday or Tuesday. Londoners were cautioned by Mayor Sadiq Khan to only take public transportation on certain days "if absolutely necessary." Additionally, travellers were advised not to travel via national rail companies. Some schools in southern England communicated to parents that they would stay closed throughout the heatwave early next week.
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