Friday 19 July 2019

Wildfires in France and Spain as three die in Italian heatwave

A burnt-out van after a bushfire broke out in the countryside around Saint-Gilles, in the south of France. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A burnt-out van after a bushfire broke out in the countryside around Saint-Gilles, in the south of France. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Joan Faus

Hundreds of firefighters battled to contain wildfires in southern France yesterday as a stifling heatwave brought record-breaking temperatures to parts of Europe, killing at least three people in Italy.

In the Gard region, where France's highest temperature on record was registered last Friday at 45.9C, scores of fires burned 1,500 acres of land and destroyed houses and vehicles.

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More than 700 firefighters and 10 aircraft were mobilised to tackle the fires in Gard, some of which caused sections of motorways to be closed.

French media said a man had been arrested for deliberately starting fires in one Gard village.

A woman cools off in a water fountain on June 26, 2019 at the Lustgarten in central Berli. Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP
A woman cools off in a water fountain on June 26, 2019 at the Lustgarten in central Berli. Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP
An elderly couple swim past a model boat at the Schwarzachtalsee lake in Ertingen, southern German. Photo by Thomas Warnack / dpa / AFP
A man sleeps on chairs in the Tuileries Garden in Paris. Photo credit DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images
People cool off at a lake in Haltern am See, western Germany. Photo: INA FASSBENDER/AFP/Getty Images
A boy jumps from a diving board in to a swimming pool in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany. Photo by Andreas Arnold / dpa / AFP
A jaguar cools off in the pool of the Bordeaux-Pessac Zoo in Pessac, southwestern France. Photo credit: MEHDI FEDOUACH/AFP/Getty Images
Young people cool off in a fountain in Lustgarten park. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images
A woman takes a picture of the Louvre Pyramid (Pyramide du Louvre) as she soaks her feet in the water of a fountain. Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP
Children play under water jets in a fountain as they cool off during a heatwave in Nice. Photo by VALERY HACHE / AFP)VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
People sunbath in front of the Louvre Pyramid (Pyramide du Louvre). Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images
People use an umbrella to shelter from the sun near the Louvre Pyramid (Pyramide du Louvre) during a heatwave in Pari. Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Image
A bear seeks relief from heat as it eats iced food at a zoo in Rome, Italy. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
A bear seeks relief from heat as it eats iced food at a zoo in Rome, Italy. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
A Civil Protection volunteer delivers free bottles of water to tourists in Rome. Photo: AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia
A bear seeks relief from heat as it eats iced food at a zoo in Rome. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli
A macaque seeks relief from heat as it eats iced food at a zoo in Rome, Italy. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli
Ring-tailed lemurs seek relief from heat as they eat iced food at a zoo in Rome, Italy, June 27, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli

Paris was due to experience its hottest day of the heatwave so far with a predicted high of 37C. Authorities in the capital maintained a ban on driving older cars to curb heatwave-related pollution.

The World Meteorological Organisation said 2019 was on track to be among the world's hottest years, and 2015-2019 would then be the hottest five-year period on record.

It said the European heatwave was "absolutely consistent" with extremes linked to the impact of greenhouse gas emissions.

Britain saw its hottest day of the year yesterday, with temperatures reaching 35C, according to the Met Office.

Emergency services across the country shared warnings and advice to stay safe, cool and hydrated during the hot conditions. The RSPCA urged people to call 999 if they find pets left alone in a car.

England's most senior nurse called on the public to help children, the elderly and other vulnerable people at risk of being affected by the heat.

Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said: "Like lots of people I'm looking forward to having fun in the sun with family and friends this weekend, but nobody wants to spend a pleasant day stuck in a hospital or urgent treatment centre.

"So whether you're going to be out in the garden like me or heading off to Glastonbury, it's really important to take simple precautions like drinking plenty of water, using high-factor sunscreen and remembering to take allergy medication if you need it - as is making sure to check in on neighbours and loved ones who can suffer the most from heat and pollen."

For a fourth consecutive day, unusually high temperatures above 43C were forecast across Spain.

Forty of Spain's 50 regions were placed under weather alert, seven considered to be at extreme risk, the national meteorological agency said.

In the north-eastern city of Girona, the mercury reached a record high of 43.9C last Friday, the Catalan city's highest temperature on record.

Firefighters managed to contain 90pc of the wildfires that raged across 60 sq km in the north-eastern Tarragona province, the Catalan government said.

Two other wildfires in the central Toledo region were still burning this weekend, officials said.

The heat killed at least three people as temperatures soared in central and northern Italy, while hospitals in the financial capital Milan saw a 35pc rise in emergency visits due to heat-related conditions, local media reported.

Demand for power in the city surged as people cranked up air conditioning, causing sporadic black-outs in stores and restaurants. Temperatures are forecast to ease in the coming days but it will remain hot.

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