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Europe Counts Cost of Wildfires as UK Braces for Record Heatwave

·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes across Europe as deadly wildfires sparked by soaring temperatures burn down swathes of woodland and threaten to destroy homes.

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Fires have devastated thousands of hectares near Bordeaux, in France’s Gironde wine region, as well as across southern and western Spain. While blazes in Portugal were subsiding on Sunday, areas of Turkey, Croatia and Greece were also left scorched by wildfires.

With Europe in the throes of an extreme heatwave, there were 360 deaths attributable to temperature-related causes in Spain from July 10-15, according to the country’s Carlos III Health Institute. Portugal’s health authorities said on Thursday that in the July 7-13 period the country recorded excess mortality of 238 deaths as temperatures soared.

Meanwhile, the UK is bracing for record-breaking heat of 40° Celsius (104° Fahrenheit) on Monday as the hot weather spreads north.

Here’s some more detail on the impact of the heatwave:

  • In France, emergency services have been battling two fires since Tuesday in the Gironde, a coastal region around Bordeaux, with the local prefecture saying on Sunday that some 1,200 firefighters still hadn’t managed to bring the blazes under control

    • Around 11,000 hectares of forest have been destroyed and 14,000 people evacuated from the area as the country’s meteorological office warns of new record high temperatures in the west of the country before cooler weather comes in on Tuesday

  • In Spain, the near week-long heatwave continued to spark wildfires with 19 forest fires active, according to the latest July 16 bulletin from the interior ministry’s civil protection and emergencies department

    • Spanish media showed images on Sunday of a new blaze in the Jerte valley in the western Caceres province after major fires in the Monfrague national park in Extremadura and Mijas near Malaga

  • In Portugal, the government downgraded the gravity of the situation to one of “alert” from the more serious “contingency” level with temperatures set to fall

    • Almost 1,400 firefighters are still facing blazes, mostly in the north of the country

    • On Friday, Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa tweeted his condolences to the family of a pilot killed when a fire-fighting aircraft crashed while battling a blaze in the north-eastern town of Torre de Moncorvo

  • In Italy, the heatwave has contributed to the worst drought in decades

    • The dry weather has caused an estimated 30% decline in seasonal harvests in the Po region, according to Coldiretti, an agricultural industry association, which estimates the overall toll from the drought to agriculture at 3 billion euros ($3.1 billion).

    • Levels of the Po river are at their lowest in 70 years

    • Hydroelectric power, which usually supplies 15% of the country’s needs, is down 50% so far this year

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