Greece brings fires under control; Southern Europe remains on alert

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Athens (AFP) – Greece breathes a sigh of relief on August 13 after the dreaded fires which have hit the Hellenic country intensely and which are already under control, while southern Europe remains on alert in the face of the multiplication of other fires caused by the intense heat wave .

“Since yesterday (Thursday August 12) there are no longer any major active fronts, only scattered outbreaks,” a spokesman for the Greek firefighters told AFP, thanks to the precipitation that fell in several regions and the decrease temperatures.

Firefighters, deployed by the hundreds in critical locations, remain on alert due to the risk of recurrence of fires on the island of Euboea, the place most affected by the flames, and in the region of Arcadia, in the Peloponnese.

High winds are expected over the weekend, which can cause flames to spread quickly.

Since the end of July, the flames have swept over 100,000 hectares in Greece. Hundreds of houses and small businesses were reduced to ashes by a fire in Euboea, located 200 km north of Athens, in part of the Peloponnese and on the outskirts of the capital.

Several fires broke out during the worst heat wave to hit Greece in three decades, caused and fueled by scorching temperatures and dry weather. © Reuters

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said it was an unprecedented environmental disaster that he attributed directly to climate change.

Growing fires are associated with various phenomena anticipated by scientists due to global warming. According to experts, recurrent heat waves are a sure sign and heat waves will multiply, lengthen and even intensify: an ideal combination for fires.

“Globally, rising temperatures and aridity have extended the fire season and doubled the area at risk,” according to a project by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). .

A sign that Europe’s war on fires this summer is far from over and the front has only been shifting after French rescuers were sent from Greece to Sicily, which faces flames like the neighboring Calabria.

“The next few days are going to be difficult”

An anticyclone named Lucifer is currently crossing the peninsula, causing a sharp rise in thermometers, with a record temperature of 48.8 degrees recorded on Wednesday in Sicily, a new European record if the data is confirmed.

Faced with these fires which killed four people, the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, announced Thursday “an aid program for people and businesses affected”, as well as another “special reforestation and securing of the territory”.

In Portugal, the government declared the fire alert until Monday in 14 of its 18 regions.

“We already know that the next few days are going to be difficult,” Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa warned on Thursday. Referring to “an ongoing challenge caused by climate change”, Costa called on people to avoid “risky behavior”.

In Algeria, firefighters and volunteers are also fighting tirelessly against fires that have already killed 71 people.

In neighboring Tunisia, some 30 fires caused by the heat wave have been recorded, while Turkey has announced the death of 27 people due to flooding just after the deadly fires.

High risk of forest fires in Spain

A hundred firefighters worked overnight to control the fire in the province of Tarragona (northeast), which forced the evacuation of around thirty campers on Thursday and destroyed some 75 hectares of protected forest.

El otro extremo de España, decenas de bomberos combatían a forest incendio that inició el jueves por la noche in Rubiá, in Galicia (northeast), a region that ha escapado a la ola de calor that inició el jueves y persistirá hasta el Monday.

The State Meteorological Agency (AEMET) said almost the entire country faced a “high”, “very high” or “extreme” risk of forest fires on Friday due to high temperatures.

Only a strip of the northern coast and parts of the eastern region of Valencia, on the Mediterranean coast, were at “low” or “moderate” risk.

A man cools off in El Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain, August 11, 2021.
A man cools off in El Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain, August 11, 2021. Pierre-Philippe MarcouAFP

The meteorological office estimated that 15 of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities were on alert for high temperatures, with forecasts that the thermometer will hit highs of 36º to 40º on Friday across much of the country.

Temperatures could rise to 46º in the provinces of Seville, Cordoba and Jaén, in the south-west of Andalusia.

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