A record-breaking heatwave could pose a “life-threatening” threat to the UK, forecasters have warned as scorching temperatures fuel wildfires and trigger weather warnings across several European countries.
The British government held a meeting of its emergency committee, known as Cobra, on Saturday after the country’s national weather service issued its first-ever “red warning” for extreme heat on Monday and Tuesday.
This means “there will most likely be a risk to life, with substantial disruption to travel, energy supplies and possibly widespread damage to property and infrastructure,” said the Bureau of Meteorology, known as name of the Met Office, on its website.
It came after the UK Health Safety Agency raised its heat-health warning from level three to level four – which constitutes a national emergency.
Temperatures in southern England are expected to reach 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the Met Office said on Friday. They could also exceed the highest temperature on record in the UK of 101.7 degrees, recorded in July 2019.
As a result, officials in a country where air conditioning in homes is scarce have urged people not to take public transport, and some schools have said they will hold lessons remotely.
Across Britain, Met Office data showed cities like London and Manchester would hit temperatures projected in long-term climate projections for the year 2040. Highs of nearly 104 degrees are predicted.
Scorching temperatures are also forecast for parts of France and Spain, where a high of 107.6 degrees is expected on Monday.
In the Bordeaux region of southwestern France, 12,200 people have been forced to evacuate their homes as wildfires spread, the local authority of the Gironde department said in a statement on Saturday. .
Nearly 1,200 firefighters and four specialist aircraft were battling to contain two blazes that have scorched 25,000 acres of land, including woods south of the Atlantic resort of Arcachon, which have been burning since Tuesday, the statement added.
Although one of the fires has been partially contained, warmer temperatures and winds over the weekend could complicate firefighting efforts, according to the department’s statement.
“We are living through an exceptionally harsh (summer) season,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday during a visit to the government’s crisis management center at the Interior Ministry in Paris.
The number of French forests burned this year is already triple that destroyed in 2020, he said.
Further south in Portugal, a national high of 117 degrees was recorded in the northern town of Pinhao on Wednesday as the warm, dry air mass from Africa blew over the western edge of the Iberian Peninsula.
On Saturday, more than 3,000 firefighters continued to battle multiple blazes as citizens desperately sought to save their homes.
A water bomber pilot died on Friday after his plane crashed while fighting a raging wildfire in the municipality of Torre de Moncorvo, in the north of Portugal, near the Spanish border.
Portugal’s Civil Protection Agency said just under 25,000 acres of land had been burned this week alone.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Spain, temperatures topped 104 degrees for several days as firefighters struggled to control a blaze sparked by a lightning strike on Monday in the central-west region of Las Hurdes which has consumed about 13,600 acres of land.
Around 400 people from eight villages were evacuated on Thursday as flames approached their homes and spread into nearby Monfrague National Park. In the Spanish city of Seville, some unions have called for workers to be sent home.
Firefighters in Croatia and Hungary also battled blazes throughout the week, sparked by high temperatures and lightning.
Firefighters discovered a corpse on Thursday morning among the ruins of a burnt-out farmhouse, Hungary’s disaster management authority said in a statement on Thursday.
Several villages were also evacuated in Greece and Morocco as fires swept across the Mediterranean.
As a result, the European Union has urged member states to prepare for wildfires this summer as the continent faces another extreme climate change which scientists say has been triggered by climate change.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed.
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