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Europe heatwave: France and Spain face ‘extreme danger’ as countries set to see hottest temperatures on record

Experts say much of western Europe faces 'high' or 'very high' threat from forest fires this week

Conrad Duncan
Monday 22 July 2019 18:11 BST
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‘Dangerous heatwave’ to sweep Europe bringing temperatures up to 40C, forecasters say

France and Spain will face “extreme danger” from fires due to another scorching heatwave across western Europe this week, according to EU experts monitoring forest fires.

The Copernicus Emergency Management Service (EMS) has forecasted the highest threat level for forest fires for almost all of France and Spain on Thursday, with “high” or “very high” threat levels for much of Portugal, Italy, Belgium and Germany.

Meanwhile, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands could see record temperatures this week with highs of 39C predicted across the three countries.

The extreme weather comes less than a month after a record-breaking heatwave in June, which saw France record its hottest temperature ever (46C), followed by major wildfires in Portugal over the weekend.

This year has already seen the hottest June on record, according to data by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S).

A Copernicus EMS spokesperson said: "Over France, at least, we don’t recall seeing this proportion of the country with extreme danger. Moreover, many of the areas north of the Loire river [around central France] are usually not prone to forest fires."

In response to an increased risk of forest fires in recent years, the EU launched the “rescEU” fleet of seven fire-fighting planes and six helicopters in May to tackle natural disasters.

The rise in extreme weather, which has been linked to climate change, has made the wildfire season in Europe longer and more dangerous.

"In recent times, we've seen how wildfires have been spreading all over Europe, from north to south, from east to west. Fires don't respect borders," Christos Stylianides, EU commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management, said at the official launch of rescEU.

Although the wildfire season used to run from June to September, Mr Stylianides said, May and October are now also considered high-risk months.

Spain battled its biggest wildfires in 20 years last month after temperatures exceeded 40C – particularly in the Catalan province of Tarragona, where more than 500 firefighters and soldiers struggled to control a major fire which burned through thousands of acres of land.

The country’s state meteorological agency (AEMET) has warned that many Spanish provinces could see dangerously high temperatures this week, with at least 12 facing a significant risk of heat above 40C.

In France, Paris authorities activated a heatwave alert plan on Monday in preparation for the upcoming heatwave, adding to more than 20 other local regions that have been placed on alert.

The UK is also expected to see unusually hot weather next week, although it is not expected to be as severe as in continental Europe.

Temperatures are expected to rise to 37C, with Thursday set to be the hottest day of the year so far in the UK.

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