PARIS / ROME / ATHENS / MADRID Portugal has been engulfed in numerous forest fires for a week. Up to and including Sunday, the third highest state of emergency applies to all of mainland Portugal. According to ICNF, the fire destroyed more than 25,000 hectares in just one week. The area destroyed so far by forest fires has increased this year to 38,600 ha – by 35%. more than in the entire previous year (28 415 ha).
In France, too, much more land has burned down since the beginning of the year than at the same time last year. The Home Office said 13,000 hectares had fallen victim to the flames. In 2021, until mid-July, it was only 500 hectares. More than half of the burned area is due to two forest fires south of Bordeaux, which firefighters have been trying to contain since Tuesday. Even if only a few houses were on fire, nearly 12,000 people had to leave their homes or holiday resorts just in case. There was also a serious forest fire in the Rhone Valley.
Support for the south of France, suffering from high winds and drought, now flows from other Mediterranean countries. Greece has made available two firefighting planes and Italy has agreed to borrow two if needed.
In Spain on Friday there were still 18 major forest fires across the country. The worst rage was in the municipality of Las Hurdes in the province of Cáceres, near the border with Portugal. The flames probably destroyed at least 3,500 hectares of land there. During a forest fire at the tourist hotspot of the Costa del Sol, around 2,300 people had to be secured as a precaution. There were also plumes of smoke on some beaches. Málaga and nearby famous beach resorts such as Marbella, Fuengirola, Torremolinos and Benalmádena were reportedly not touched as strong winds drove large walls of fire off the south coast of Spain.
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It is the wind in Greece that is currently fueling the fires and making the firefighting work extremely difficult. Storm winds are expected again on Saturday. Greek fire brigades announced the second highest level of forest fires in many areas.
However, the situation in Greece is not as bad as it was last summer. First, it is not as hot as, for example, in Spain and Portugal, where temperatures have risen to 45 and 47 degrees respectively. Highs of 38 degrees are expected for the weekend, which is not too hot for Greece. On the other hand, it rained in much of the country last weekend, so the risk of fire in many places is so far low.
However, much of Italy still counts on rain. Following fires in the north of Lake Garda, a popular destination for German tourists, authorities continue to monitor the area. In the municipality of Nago-Torbole, the winds stoked the fires again. The authorities could not rule out more fires in the coming days due to the drought.
Throughout the country, there is an increased risk of forest fires in many areas due to droughts, such as in Sicily and Sardinia and South Tyrol. According to the statistical office, drought phases have increased significantly in recent years compared to previous decades. And the high temperatures continue. The Ministry of Health issued the highest heatwave warning level in Florence and Perugia on Sunday. Experts advise people to avoid busy places, not to exercise outside during the hottest times of the day, and not to drink cold or alcoholic drinks.
According to the German Weather Service (DWD), the 40-degree limit may also be exceeded locally during the heatwave expected next week. As the ten-day forecast for Saturday shows, on Tuesday it is expected to warm up to 30-36 degrees – in the southwest and west to 39 degrees. The reason for the approaching summer weather is the Hoch “Jürgen”, which moves south-east of the British Isles and settles over Germany.