Prosecutors said a man suspected of arson that destroyed 13,000 hectares of pine forest in France was being questioned about a similar alleged crime a decade ago when heatwaves broke temperature records across Europe, according to TheGuardian.
A mass of cooler air on July 19 brought relief to France's Atlantic coast after 63 communes set new temperature records, but firefighters fought huge fires in the southwest even as the heat wave moved north and east.
The western city of Nantes recorded 42°C on 18 July, beating the previous high of 40.3°C set in 1949, while the northwestern port of Brest reached 39.9°C, beating the 2002 record in 35.1°C.
Several night-time temperature records have also been set, including at La Gaga in Normandy, where 32.8°C was recorded at 3am on July 19. Officials said the entire west coast of France was affected, from Landes in the south to Finistère in the north.
The wildest fires were in the southwestern Gironde department, where fire brigades struggled to contain two weeks of fires in La Teste-de-Buch and Landiras, as well as a third fire in Vinsac that broke out on the night of July 18.
The prosecutor's office in Bordeaux said a motorist told investigators that he saw a car moving away from the site where the Landiras fire started on July 12 and tried but failed to put out the flames. Investigators found traces of arson.
The 39-year-old man, who was questioned on July 19, lives in the Gironde and was questioned in 2012 on suspicion of starting a forest fire, officials said. The investigation was dropped in 2014 due to lack of evidence, they added.
Elsewhere, the UK record was broken at London's Heathrow Airport, where temperatures reached 40.2°C shortly after lunch on 19 July. The head of the UN meteorological agency expressed the hope that the heat will serve as a “wake-up call” for governments.
In Luton, one of London's airports, part of the runway almost melted, the flight schedule was disrupted. High temperatures also affected large stretches of railway lines in the south of the country.
Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization, said: “I hope that in democracies this kind of events will also affect the behavior of voters.”< /p>
Meteorologists said on July 19 that a mass of hot air – the second to cover the continent in recent weeks – has begun moving into eastern France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, with temperatures approaching 40°C.
Dutch weather service KNMI said temperatures could top 39°C, issuing an orange extreme weather warning for the center and south of the Netherlands, while Belgium issued the highest alert as forecasters predicted temperatures of 40°C and higher.
Major state museums in Brussels took the unusual step of giving people over 65 free access to help them cool off, while workers in Amsterdam poured water on mechanical canal bridges to prevent expanding metal from jamming.
In In Germany, two firefighters were injured while extinguishing a forest fire in Saxony. The weather has raised drought fears and a German farmers' association has warned of the risk of “major losses” in food production.
When the European Commission announced that drought warnings were in place for 46% of the bloc and 11% were at risk, wildfires in France, Spain and Portugal continued to destroy dry forests and moorlands.
About 2,000 firefighters fighting three fires in France. More than 37 thousand people were evacuated from the region, including 16 thousand on July 18 alone.
Patrick Dave, mayor of La Teste-de-Buch, said: “This is heartbreaking. Economically, it will be very difficult for them and very difficult for the city because we are a tourist city and we need a tourist season.”
According to a local government official, five campsites from which 6,000 were evacuated last week vacationers near the Pilat dune, the highest sand dune in Europe, were “nearly 90% destroyed.”
An area 9 km long and 8 km wide was still burning near the dune, and the fire “blew up all around”, such was its ferocity, said Mark Vermeulen, head of the local fire department. “The trunks of 40-year-old pines are bursting”, & # 8211; he said.
Local firefighters said that elsewhere in France, a fire that started last week near Avignon in the southeast reopened on July 18, while a separate fire broke out in Brittany.< /p>
So far, no deaths have been reported in France, but in Spain, where more than a dozen fires continued to rage on July 19, a fire in the northwestern province of Zamora claimed the life of a 69-year-old shepherd. On July 17, a firefighter died in the same area.
On July 18, it became known that a man in his 50s died from heatstroke in Madrid. Rail service between Madrid and Galicia in the northwest remained suspended due to fires on both sides of the tracks.
Near the northern city of Tabara, a forest fire swept through a field, engulfing an excavator and forcing a driver who was trying to dig a firebreak , run to save his life as the flames burned the clothes off his back. He was airlifted to the hospital.
In Portugal, 1,400 firefighters fought 10 forest fires in the north. The death toll from the fires doubled to four on July 18 after a car carrying two people went off the road trying to avoid a fire in Vila Real to the north, officials said.
Sixty people were injured in the fires. fires that lasted more than a week in Portugal. “We found the car and these two people, about 70 years old, completely burnt out,” said the mayor of Mursa, Mario Artur Lopez.
In total, about a thousand people died in Spain and Portugal from the heat of recent weeks. Tens of thousands of people across Europe are forced to flee their homes.
In Athens, huge columns of thick, acrid smoke filled the sky late on July 19, when a forest fire fanned by gale-force winds tore apart Mount Pendeli. The Greek Ministry of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection has ordered residents of the Ntrafi area to leave their homes while firefighters on the ground and in the air fought the flames.
The country's Open TV channel showed footage of the fire engulfing homes and incinerating cars left in garages as people fled the scene. According to eyewitnesses, the fire moved at lightning speed across Pendeli.
The high temperatures themselves would not have been so destructive if it were not for the wind and the complete absence of precipitation, forecasters say.
In general, they remind, Since the beginning of the industrial era, the average temperature of the planet has risen by 1.1°C, according to the BBC.
Heatwaves are hitting the continents more frequently, lasting longer, and temperatures are getting higher from time to time.
Dozens of temperature records were set in the southern and central parts of the United States last week.
Unprecedented heat has covered the states of Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. On July 15, high temperatures threatened the health and lives of 22 million Americans, or 7% of the country's population. In the coming weeks, 40-degree heat is expected in the south and west of the country. Every year, several hundred Americans die from it.
In total, about 84 major fires are blazing in the United States, which have already destroyed 1.2 million hectares of land. In addition to Texas, Arizona and Utah, Alaska has the largest number of fires. Experts are blaming climate change for the current heat waves and point out that more frequent extreme weather will only get worse, posing an even greater threat to lives and livelihoods, at least for a the next 30 years.