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2 people die in Spanish wildfires

Thousands evacuate as hot winds fuel blazes in Europe by BOB EDME and JOHN LEICESTER The Associated Press | July 19, 2022 at 5:20 a.m.
Firefighters puts water on a trees at a forest fire near Louchats, 35 kms (22 miles) from Landiras in Gironde, southwestern France, Monday, July 18, 2022. France scrambled more water-bombing planes and hundreds more firefighters to combat spreading wildfires that were being fed Monday by hot swirling winds from a searing heat wave broiling much of Europe. With winds changing direction, authorities in southwestern France announced plans to evacuate more towns and move out 3,500 people at risk of finding themselves in the path of the raging flames. (Philippe Lopez/Pool Photo via AP)


LA TESTE-DE-BUCH, France -- A heat wave broiling Europe spilled northward Monday to Britain and fueled ferocious wildfires in Spain and France, which evacuated thousands of people and scrambled water-bombing planes and firefighters to battle flames in tinder-dry forests.

Two people were killed in the blazes in Spain that its prime minister linked to global warming, saying, "Climate change kills."

That toll comes on top of the hundreds of heat-related deaths reported in the Iberian peninsula, as high temperatures have gripped the continent in recent days and triggered wildfires from Portugal to the Balkans. Some areas, including northern Italy, are also experiencing extended droughts.

In France, heat records were broken and swirling hot winds complicated firefighting in the country's southwest.

"The fire is literally exploding," said Marc Vermeulen, the regional fire service chief who described tree trunks shattering as flames consumed them, sending burning embers into the air and further spreading the blazes.

"We're facing extreme and exceptional circumstances," he said.

Authorities evacuated more towns, moving another 14,900 people from areas that could find themselves in the path of the fires and choking smoke. In all, more than 31,000 people have been forced from their homes and summer vacation spots in the Gironde region since the wildfires began July 12.

Three additional planes were sent to join six others fighting the fires, scooping up seawater and making repeated runs through dense clouds of smoke, the Interior Ministry said Sunday night.

More than 200 reinforcements headed to join the 1,500 firefighters trying to contain the blazes in the Gironde, where flames neared prized vineyards and billowed smoke across the Arcachon maritime basin famed for its oysters and beaches.

Spain, meanwhile, reported a second fatality in two days in its own blazes. The body of a 69-year-old sheep farmer was found Monday in the same hilly area where a 62-year-old firefighter died a day earlier when he was trapped by flames in the northwestern Zamora province.

More than 30 forest fires around Spain have forced the evacuation of thousands of people and blackened 85 square miles of forest and scrub.

Passengers on a train through Zamora got a frightening, close look at a blaze, when their train halted in the countryside. Video of the unscheduled stop showed about a dozen passengers in a railcar becoming alarmed as they looked out of the windows at the flames encroaching on both sides of the track.

Climate scientists say heat waves are more intense, more frequent and longer because of climate change -- and coupled with droughts have made wildfires harder to fight. They say climate change will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

"Climate change kills ... people. It kills our ecosystems and biodiversity," Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Monday during a visit to the Extremadura region.

At least 748 heat-related deaths have been reported in the heat wave in Spain and neighboring Portugal, where temperatures reached 117 degrees Fahrenheit earlier this month.

The heat wave in Spain was forecast to ease today, but the respite will be brief as temperatures rise again on Wednesday, especially in the dry western Extremadura region.

France's often-temperate Brittany region sweltered with a record 102.7 degrees in the port of Brest, surpassing a high of 95.1 degrees that had stood since September 2003, French weather service Meteo-France said.


Regional records in France were broken in over a dozen towns, as the weather service said Monday was "the hottest day of this heat wave."

The Balkans region expected the worst of the heat later this week, but has already seen sporadic wildfires.

Early Monday, authorities in Slovenia said firefighters brought one fire under control.


Croatia sent a water-dropping plane there to help after struggling last week with its own wildfires along the Adriatic Sea. A fire in Sibenik forced some people to evacuate their homes but was later extinguished.

In Portugal, much cooler weather Monday helped fire crews make progress. More than 600 firefighters battled four major fires in northern Portugal.

Information for this article was contributed by Danica Kirka, Jill Lawless, Geir Moulson, Raquel Redondo, Barry Hatton and Jovana Gec of The Associated Press.

  photo  A firefighter tries to extinguish flames as wildfire advance during a wildfire in Ferreras de Abajo in north western Spain, Monday, July 18, 2022. Firefighters battled wildfires raging out of control in Spain and France as Europe wilted under an unusually extreme heat wave that authorities in Madrid blamed for hundreds of deaths. (AP Photo/Emilio Fraile)
 
 



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