Drought in England, fires rage in France as heat wave persists

  • Firefighters from all over Europe help France with a monster fire
  • Drought officially declared in parts of England
  • Europe hit by successive heat waves

SAINT-MAGNE, France, Aug 11 (Reuters) – Firefighters from across Europe came to the rescue of France on Friday to tackle a massive forest fire, while parts of England faced a severe drought, while successive heat waves on the continent have renewed attention on the risks associated with climate change.

Much of Europe has faced weeks of baking temperatures that have led to large forest fires, depleted water levels in Germany’s Rhine River and seen the source of Britain’s Thames dry up more downstream than in previous years.

In central Portugal, a massive wildfire raged into its seventh day, with 1,600 firefighters backed by 13 water bomber planes, including one sent from Spain, battling the blaze which destroyed around 15% of the Serra da Estrela National Park.

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After starting on Saturday in the Covilha region, the fire spread to several neighboring municipalities, burning around 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres) in total.

Meanwhile, water levels on the Rhine in Germany have fallen again, with some ships unable to navigate, shipping operators and brokers said. Read more

“SERIOUS RISK”

High temperatures and worsening drought have led to a high risk of further fires in Gironde, southwestern France, local officials said, even after an overnight reprieve brought the burning wildfire under control for days, has burned thousands of hectares and displaced 10,000 people. people.

Firefighters from Germany, Romania, Greece and elsewhere were on the ground to help France fight the blaze in the region – home to Bordeaux wine – as well as on other fronts, including in Brittany in the northwest.

France’s European counterparts have also sent two more water bombers, in addition to the four they have already loaned to firefighting efforts in the country.

The risk of new fires is “very important” given the weather conditions, said the prefecture of Gironde.

“The day is likely to be complicated as the temperatures continue to rise and the humidity continues to drop, so obviously we remain vigilant and mobilized,” senior local official Ronan Leaustic told a press conference.

Temperatures as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) were expected in the southwest, with high temperatures also expected across much of France, according to official weather forecasts from Météo France.

The heat wave – officially the third in France this summer – was to ebb on Saturday and end on Sunday with thunderstorms, he added.

DROUGHT IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

Further north in Britain, the heat wave was also hitting hard, with the government officially declaring parts of southern, central and eastern England drought-prone after a long spell of hot, dry weather.

England had its driest July since 1935, with just 35% of the month’s average rainfall, and parts of England and Wales were now in the midst of an ‘extreme heat’ alert of four days. Read more

“All the water companies have reassured us that essential supplies are always safe, and we have made it clear that it is their duty to maintain these supplies,” Water Minister Steve Double said. following a meeting of the National Drought Group.

Water companies will now start adopting pre-agreed drought plans to help protect supplies, and the government has said members of the public and businesses in drought-affected areas are urged to use water at advisedly.

Earlier on Friday, Yorkshire Water announced a garden hose ban would begin on August 26, prohibiting customers from using hoses to water gardens, wash cars or fill paddling pools.

Also everywhere in France there are restrictions on the use of water and the water police have imposed fines. Local media reported that outdoor hot tubs had been vandalized in the Vosges tourist region, as some tensions over the water mounted.

Politicians across the continent are assessing the impact.

“This fire season this year is far from over,” Pascal Martin, a centrist French senator and former firefighter, told Europe 1 radio.

“However, if two lessons are essential, it is that the fires extend both geographically and in time, not only in the south, but throughout the country, even in the Jura and in Brittany, and no longer only in the summer months.”

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Reporting by Farouq Suleiman and Sachin Ravikumar, Myriam Rivet, Manuel Ausloos, Stéphane Mahé, Geert de Clercq, Farouq Suleiman, Andrei Khalip and Michael Hogan; Written by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Alison Williams and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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