Monday, July 22, 2024
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France braces for early heatwave as Spain battles forest fires

PARIS (AFP) – French officials warned yesterday that a record pre-summer heatwave was spreading north from Spain, where authorities were fighting several forest fires as the country sizzles under a sixth day of sweltering temperatures.

The Meteo France weather service said it was the earliest hot spell to hit the country since at least 2005, worsening a drought caused by an unusually dry winter and spring and raising the risk of forest fires.

Spain, which had already seen its hottest month of May since the beginning of this century, was sweating under temperatures forecast as high as 43 degrees Celsius and no relief is expected before Sunday, the Aemet weather service said.

At least three blazes had erupted in Catalonia, including one near Baldomar, around 140 kilometres northeast of Barcelona, that had already burned 500 hectares but could grow to 20,000 hectares before it is contained, the regional government said.

No evacuations have yet been ordered but people are being urged to remain in their homes.

In neighbouring Portugal, last month was the hottest May since 1931, with most scientists attributing the early season heat to global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

The heat crossed the Pyrenees into southern France on Tuesday and was set to hit most of the country by tomorrow, when thermometers could reach 38 Celsius in Paris.

Authorities have already warned of increased wildfire risks in forests surrounding the capital, and Paris and other areas have issued alerts over ozone pollution, which occurs when intense sunlight transforms carbon emissions into smog.

People shelter under the shadow of a tree during a heat wave in Lyon, France. PHOTO: AP