Summer of fire: flames burn across Mediterranean with more extreme weather forecast | Climate crisis
Hundreds of fires are burning across the Mediterranean, displacing thousands of people and causing irreparable damage as man-made climate change causes record summer heat waves.
With very high temperatures expected in parts of Spain and France on Friday and Saturday, the crisis threatens to spread with scorching summer weeks ahead in the region.
In Greece, firefighters continued to fight what Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday called “the country’s biggest environmental disaster in decades.”
Greece’s most severe heat wave in decades has fueled fires that have destroyed more than 100,000 hectares of forests and farmland.
The fires have killed three people, left hundreds homeless, forced thousands to flee and caused economic and environmental havoc. Mitsotakis said 150 houses were destroyed in Greater Athens over the past week, while the number continues to rise on the island of Evia, which accounts for more than half of the area burned down to scale national.
Although recent rains have eased the crisis in Greece, it is just one of many Mediterranean countries that have been hit by a savage fire season. According to an IPCC assessment draft consulted by Agence France-Presse, the region has been designated as a “climate change hotspot”, with rising temperatures and aridity that lengthens fire seasons.
Turkey saw its south coast devastated by fires. Eight people, including two firefighters, died in forest fires that destroyed huge swathes of pine forest and farmland.
More than 10,000 people were forced to abandon damaged homes, and resorts and hotels were evacuated in the middle of the tourist season.
Italy recorded a temperature of 48.8 ° C (119.8 ° F) in Sicily on Wednesday – breaking the previous record set in Greece in 1977 in what is believed to be a new European record – as the ‘Lucifer »Travels across the country. A high pressure area is an area of high atmospheric pressure which in summer brings dry and hot weather.
Italian firefighters continued to fight hundreds of fires in the south of the country, particularly in Sicily and the Calabria region. Firefighters said there were more than 500 reported fires overnight. The fires in Italy have so far killed four people.
The burnt body of a 79-year-old man was found in the Reggio Calabria area on Wednesday, while another man, 77, died in the same area after attempting to bring his herd to the shelter from the flames, news agencies reported.
Their deaths follow those of a woman, 53, and her nephew, 35, also in Reggio Calabria, who died last Friday while trying to save the family olive grove.
Now the Mediterranean heatwave has started to move west, with three forest fires raging in Spain Thursday, and temperatures exceeding 40 ° C in the country on Friday and Saturday, as well as in many parts of southern France.
Dozens of firefighters backed by four water-dropped planes were at the scene of a blaze in northeastern Spain’s Tarragona province, which has so far destroyed 40 hectares (100 acres) of protected forest, local officials said.
Two smaller fires were burning in the northern wine region of La Rioja and another northeastern province, Zaragoza, involving two planes.
The wildfires come as temperatures are expected to peak at around 40 ° C (104 ° F) across much of the country on Friday. All but three of Spain’s 17 regions were on heat alert. According to Ruben del Campo, spokesperson for Spain’s national meteorological office AEMET, the number of heat waves recorded in the country between 2011 and 2020 is double the number recorded in each of the previous three decades.
Francesouthern regions have been placed under a high temperature alert, and Portugal’The meteorological office has meanwhile warned that the center and north of the country as well as parts of the southern Algarve province are on “maximum” alert for forest fires.
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa urged people to avoid “risky behavior” that could lead to forest fires.
“We know that the next few days are going to be difficult,” he told reporters on Thursday during a visit to civil protection headquarters.
“We are facing an ongoing challenge which is the result of climate change,” he added.
Like southern Europe, North Africa has been sweltering in scorching heat.
European countries sent firefighting planes to Algeria to help fight the forest fires that have killed at least 69 people in the Berber mountainous region. Victims of the fires include at least 28 soldiers who have been deployed to fight the blazes, authorities say.
The Algerian National Meteorological Office said extremely hot weather was expected until Thursday in nearly a dozen regions, including around Tizi-Ouzou. In parts of Algeria the temperature was expected to reach 47C (116.6 F)
Temperatures reached 50C (122F) in Tunisia, a record for the country. The last previous high was 48.2 ° C (near 119 ° F) in 1968.
Elsewhere in the Mediterranean, Lebanon added recovery from the late July fires to its list of debilitating challenges.