For those living in Moscow, where July was declared the coldest month in the past hundred years, it’s hard to imagine how much Europe has suffred from the heat over the past month. Temperature broke all records and caused fires in Germany, France, Portugal and Spain.
Fires in northwestern Italy in March were harbinger of summer disasters. Rescuers fought with a strong fire on the Ligurian coast. Their work was complicated by strong wind. Then kindergartens and schools were closed, dozens of families had to be evacuated. Highways were also in the danger zone. Several drivers were caught in a trap on one of them. It was later called firestorm.
In March, fire in England shocked literature enthusiasts: the East Sussex Ashdown forest, which is described in Alan Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh,” caught fire. Firefighters called dry undergrowth, which quickly ignited due to hot weather, the cause of the fire.
With the beginning of summer, situation got worse in many European countries. In north-eastern Spain, in the Catalan province of Terragona, fire destroyed six thousand hectares of forest, in Toledo – over two thousand hectares. Last year, wildfires raged in resort towns where flames almost reached homes. This year, the heat in Spain has already caused several deaths: a 17-year-old boy in Cordoba and a 93-year-old man on a street in Valladolid have died. Several more people were brought to the hospitals in severe condition. One of the victims was a firefighter who extinguished forest fire in Catalonia.
Air masses that came from hot Africa caused fires in Spain and France. In the south of France, the country’s record for high temperatures was recently broken. Firefighters claim that dozens of cases of fires have been recorded. Authorities say that because of the heat in France, at least one person drowns per day, trying to cool in a water source. Yesterday, an amphibious aircraft that was trying to put out forest fire in the French department of Gard has crashed, nothing is known about the fate of the crew.
In Portugal, heat has caused massive forest fires. Due to high temperatures, at least four people died, including a child from Austria.
Forests also burn in Croatia. The fire came close to residential buildings, local residents and tourists had to be evacuated. Law enforcement services are using special equipment and helicopters to help firefighters. This year’s largest fire on the Adriatic coast has already been put out thanks to the rain.
In England, the temperature also approached the 40-degree mark. People swim in Thames, trying to avoid the heat, and London police have already found bodies of two men.
In early July, firefighters couldn’t locate a major fire in eastern Latvia for a long time. Over 20 hectares of peat bogs were burning in the Karsovsky Krai, and fire quickly spread towards the nearby forest. Helicopters of the armed forces and border guards, as well as railway workers were involved in the extinguishing process.
The Arctic is also burning. Fire encompasses vast territories in northern Canada, in Greenland and in the US (Alaska). Fires started much earlier than usual due to abnormally high temperatures in the Arctic latitudes, due to which it quickly dried out and now forests burn much easily. It was already extremely warm in Alaska by the spring. 250 fires have already been recorded in Alaska, with approximately 200 of them spreading uncontrollably. Experts say this is twice as much as usual.
Fires in Greece and Portugal threaten populated areas. Aviation is already being used in order to bring down the flames.
Last year, dozens of people were brought to hospitals in Portugal with burns. Dry and hot weather prevented firefighters from dealing with the fire. In Spain, several people died from heat stroke. There was also unbearable heat in France, Italy, Great Britain, Switzerland, where thousands of households suffered from it, and the damage was estimated at billions of euros. It’s still to early to calculate this year’s damage: Europe is still burning and suffocating from smoke and heat.