Heat Wave Across Europe Sparks Wildfires And Heat-Related Deaths

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Carlie Porterfield   Forbes U.S. Staff

Heat Wave Across Europe Sparks Wildfires And Heat-Related Deaths

Topline

Soaring temperatures across Europe have resulted in wildfires and hundreds of heat-related deaths, as the continent battles a record-breaking heat wave that officials have linked to climate change.

Key Facts

Two large wildfires that sparked last week in the pine forests just south of Bordeaux, France, have scorched more than 24,000 acres and forced 14,000 people to evacuate as 1,200 firefighters try to stop the blaze, which Lieutenant-Colonel Olivier Chavatte from the fire and rescue service described as “a Herculean job,” according to AFP.

Most of Spain was placed under a heat warning Sunday after the Carlos III Health Institute reported 360 heat-related deaths from causes like heat stroke last week (compared to 27 deaths the week before), as firefighters battle more than 30 forest blazes across the country, according to the Associated Press.

In the past week, 659 people in Portugal have died from heat-related causes, the Health Ministry said late Saturday, and on Friday the country marked its first wildfire death this year when the pilot of a firefighting plane crashed during an operation to put out one of the country’s multiple blazes.

In Britain, the Met Office issued its first-ever “extreme” heat warning for London and other parts of the U.K. as temperatures are projected to reach as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit this week, which Met Office CEO Penny Endersby called "absolutely unprecedented” (The hottest temperature in British history was 101.6 degrees Fahrenheit, recorded in Cambridge in 2019, according to the BBC).

A historic drought across Northern Italy along the country’s longest river, the Po, has jeopardized the area’s farms, which are famous for their rice and prosciutto ham and are responsible for 30% of Italy’s agricultural output.

In Greece, high winds and soaring temperatures have allowed wildfires to spread more quickly, and on Saturday the national fire brigade recorded 71 new fires within the previous 24 hours, according to Reuters.

Key Background

Officials have blamed the high temperatures largely on climate change. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said “there is no doubt” that climate change has contributed to the drought in Italy, and the country’s agriculture minister Stefano Patuanelli warned research shows droughts will continue “with ever more devastating consequences.” Nikos Christidis, a U.K. Met Office climate scientist, said the high temperatures like those projected to occur in the U.K. next week are 10 times more likely to happen because of human activity, according to the BBC. “In a recent study we found that the likelihood of extremely hot days in the U.K. has been increasing and will continue to do so during the course of the century,” Christidis said. Last month, European Union Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič said “the present drought in Europe could become the worst ever,” and blamed climate change for the increase in the intensity of European heat waves.

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Carlie Porterfield   Forbes U.S. Staff

I am a Texas native covering breaking news out of New York City. Previously, I was a Forbes intern in London. I am an alum of City, University of London and Texas State University.