Saturday, May 18, 2024
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France, Spain fight spreading wildfires as Europe swelters

AP – France scrambled more water-bombing planes and hundreds more firefighters to combat spreading wildfires that were being fed yesterday by hot swirling winds from a searing heat wave broiling much of Europe. In Spain, two people have been killed in blazes there.

With winds changing direction, authorities in southwestern France announced plans to evacuate more towns and move out 3,500 people at risk of finding themselves in the path of the raging flames.

Three additional water-dropping planes were joining six others already making repeated runs over the flames and dense clouds of smoke, the Interior Ministry said on Sunday night.

It said more than 200 reinforcements were also being added to the 1,500-strong force of firefighters battling night and day to contain the blazes through the Gironde region’s tinder-dry pine forests that are also sending burning embers into the air, further spreading the flames.

Spain reported a second fatality in two days as it battled wildfires. The body of a 69-year-old sheep farmer was found yesterday in the same hilly area where a 62-year-old firefighter died a day earlier when he was trapped by flames in the northwestern Zamora province. More than 30 forest fires around Spain have forced the evacuation of thousands of people and blackened 220 square kilometres of forest and scrub.

In both France and Spain, fierce heat is fueling blazes. Forecasters warned of temperatures above 40C yesterday. Climate change is making such life-threatening extremes less of a rarity.

This photo provided by the fire brigade of the Gironde region (SDIS 33) shows firefighters fighting wildfire near Landiras, southwestern France. PHOTO: AP