• WMO is issuing warnings on air quality in towns and cities
  • The UK has issued the first red heat warning for Monday, Tuesday
  • Wildfires are burning in France, Spain and Portugal

LEIRIA, Portugal/LONDON, July 15 (Reuters) – Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes as wildfires ravaged France, Spain and Portugal on Friday, and European authorities issued health warnings for the heatwave in coming days.

More than 1,000 firefighters, aided by water jets, have been battling since Tuesday to put out two blazes burning in southwestern France that have been scorched by heat, boxy conditions and strong winds.

Although temperatures dropped slightly in Portugal, they are still expected to reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in some places, with five regions on red alert for bad weather and more than 1,000 firefighters battling 13 fires, authorities said.

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In Spain, the Ministry of Environment says it is helping to fight 17 wildfires across the country.

Authorities are worried about the impact on public health and medical systems already challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic as the heat wave hits the continent, with warnings issued to hit Britain in particular.

The World Meteorological Organization said on Friday that the warming will trap pollutants, which pollute the air, especially in towns and cities.

“The stable and stable atmosphere acts as a lid for atmospheric pollutants, among other things,” Lorenzo Labrador, a WMO scientist, told reporters in Geneva.

“This leads to air pollution and negative health consequences, especially for vulnerable people.”

From July 7 to July 13, Portugal registered 238 deaths due to heat, the country’s health director DGS said.

“At this time, the increase may be caused by the heat wave. In the last few days we have had very hot, very hot … and for a very long time,” DGS director Graça Freitas told the Lusa news agency.

Health Minister Marta Temido said on Thursday the health system had experienced a “very stressful” week due to the heat and said some hospitals were under pressure.


Britain’s weather forecaster issued the first red “very hot” warning for parts of England on Monday and Tuesday as temperatures are expected to soar. read more

“Exceptional, potentially dangerous heat is likely early next week,” Met Office meteorologist Paul Gundersen said.

“The night can also be very warm, especially in the towns,” he said. “This could cause significant public and infrastructure impacts.”

The highest temperature recorded in Britain was 38.7 C (101.7 F) recorded in Cambridge on July 25, 2019.

Hannah Cloke, a climatologist at Britain’s University of Reading, said the warming shows climate change is here and there is a need to change quickly.

“We are seeing these problems now and they are getting worse. We have to do something now,” he told Reuters.

“It’s hard to deal with this kind of heat in the UK because we’re not used to it.”

In Portugal, Thursday’s highest temperature was recorded in the northern town of Pinhao at 47 C (116.6 F), below the record.

In the southwestern French region of Gironde, 11,300 people have been evacuated since wildfires broke out around Dune du Pilat and Landiras. About 7,350 hectares (18,000 acres) of land have been burned, and officials say the fire is still under control.

In Spain, wildfires that have been burning in parts of Extremadura, which borders Portugal, and the central region of Castille and Leon forced the evacuation of four other villages late Thursday and Friday.

The flames are now threatening the 15th century monastery and nature reserve. Several hundred people have been displaced since the fire started and 7,500 hectares of forest have been destroyed in the two areas.

In Catalonia’s north-east, authorities have suspended camping and sports in 275 towns and villages to prevent the risk of fire and to ban farm work involving machinery.

The regions of Galicia and Extremadura remained on alert due to temperatures expected to touch 44 C (111 F).

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Additional reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten in Paris, Emma Pinedo and Christina Thykjaer in Madrid, William James in London and Emma Farge in Geneva Writing by Alison Williams Editing by Frances Kerry

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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