Europe battles heatwave wildfires

Thousands evacuated from their homes as heat-related death toll rises

Firefighter in Louchats, south-western France
(Image credit: Thibaud Moritz/AFP via Getty Images)

Thousands of people across Europe have been forced to evacuate their homes after a series of wildfires quickly spread in Spain, Portugal and France in the past week.

An “unusually dry, hot spring” left soil in various regions “parched”, causing the fire season to hit “earlier than usual”, said Sky News. Firefighters have been deployed across the Mediterranean, and fires have started in southwestern Turkey, Croatia and Greece.

The pilot of a firefighting plane died on Friday when his plane crashed while tackling a blaze in northeastern Portugal. More than 1,000 people in the country and neighbouring Spain have died due to heat-related factors, with temperatures in Almonte, Spain hitting 45.6C last Wednesday.

In Arcachon, southwest France, more than 1,200 firefighters have been tackling blazes “that have devoured more than 10,000 hectares” since last Tuesday, said France 24. Climbers in the French Alps have been warned to postpone trips as “exceptional climate conditions” have caused “repeated rock falls”.

Climate scientist Dr Eunice Lo told the BBC that “rising temperatures are a signature of climate change”, with heatwaves becoming “more common and lasting longer” due to rising global temperatures.

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Julia O'Driscoll is the engagement editor. She covers UK and world news, as well as writing lifestyle and travel features. She regularly appears on “The Week Unwrapped” podcast, and hosted The Week's short-form documentary podcast, “The Overview”. Julia was previously the content and social media editor at sustainability consultancy Eco-Age, where she interviewed prominent voices in sustainable fashion and climate movements. She has a master's in liberal arts from Bristol University, and spent a year studying at Charles University in Prague.