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Europe heat wave: Photos show impact of wildfires, extreme heat

Click to play video: 'Europeans endure devastating toll from historic heat and wildfires' Europeans endure devastating toll from historic heat and wildfires
WATCH: Europeans endure devastating toll from historic heat and wildfires – Jul 20, 2022

Britons and Europeans are scorching in an extreme heat event that has wreaked havoc in several countries on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

While some Canadians are dealing with extreme heat conditions of their own, many are watching how the searing-hot temperatures are impacting those overseas.

Read more: As Europe bakes, Germany reckons with a return to coal

The heat — which covers an area stretching from the United Kingdom to Greece — has experts sounding the alarm that the fight against climate change needs to be stepped up.

Here’s what the impact of the extreme heat overseas looks like so far:

United Kingdom

The scene after a blaze in the village of Wennington, east London, on July 20. Aaron Chown/PA via AP

British firefighters remained on high alert Wednesday even as cloudy skies and showers brought relief after two days of sizzling heat.

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London forecasters said the city would reach a high of 26 C on Wednesday, down from the record 40.3 C set Tuesday at Coningsby in eastern England.

At least 13 people died in Great Britain after “getting into difficulty in rivers, reservoirs and lakes while swimming in recent days,” British minister Kit Malthouse told parliament on Wednesday.

Read more: U.K. records hottest day ever. How residents are keeping cool

The London Fire Brigade said it endured its busiest day since the Second World War on Tuesday when the soaring 40 C-plus weather ignited fires that ruined dozens of properties in the capital, and torched tinderbox-dry grassland at the sides of railway tracks and roads.

At least 41 properties were destroyed in London and more than a dozen elsewhere in Great Britain, said Malthouse.

Click to play video: 'Summer scorcher in Europe and the U.K.' Summer scorcher in Europe and the U.K.
Summer scorcher in Europe and the U.K – Jul 20, 2022

Many trains heading from London to northern England were delayed or cancelled on Wednesday after the heat from fires buckled heavy train tracks, while signaling equipment and overhead lines were also damaged.

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A police officer gives water to a British soldier wearing a traditional bearskin hat, on guard duty outside Buckingham Palace, during hot weather in London on July 18. Matt Dunham/AP

France

A photograph shows a wildfire raging in the Monts d’Arree, French Brittany, on July 20. Loic Venance/AFP via Getty Images

Since July 12, firefighters in southwestern France have been battling to contain massive wildfires.

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Firefighters created huge firebreaks through threatened forests in the southwest of the country, using heavy machinery to rip out trees and roots to leave large barren strips to stop the fires from spreading.

The fires in the Gironde region have burned 206 square kilometres of forest, officials said.

Read more: Extreme heat is scorching Europe. How should Canadians prepare for summer travel?

President Emmanuel Macron visited the Gironde region on Wednesday as local authorities said improved weather conditions as the heat wave moved east were helping the battle to contain the flames.

Wildfires in France so far this year have consumed 25 per cent more land compared with the same period last year, the government said Wednesday as it announced that is requisitioning two civilian helicopters to help tackle the fires.

Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau said Wednesday that more money needed to be invested to tackle such threats in the future.

Firefighters stand in front of a wildfire raging in the Monts d’Arree, near Brasparts, Brittany, north-western France on July 19. Loic Venance/AFP via Getty Images

Greece

A firefighting helicopter throws water in the area of Panorama Palinis, eastern Athens, on July 20. Thanassis Stavrakis/AP

Greek authorities said on Wednesday they had brought under control a wildfire in mountains near Athens that forced hundreds of people to flee and damaged homes and cars.

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The blaze broke out on Tuesday roughly 27 km north of the capital and, fanned by high winds, spread quickly to nearby districts — including Penteli, Anthousa and Dioni — with a total population of about 90,000.

At least two people were hospitalized in the Greek capital with breathing problems and minor burns, officials said.

Click to play video: 'Extreme heat engulfs much of Europe' Extreme heat engulfs much of Europe
Extreme heat engulfs much of Europe – Jul 18, 2022

With strong winds forecasted to continue until Thursday, around 485 firefighters, 120 fire engines and almost 20 aircraft remain deployed to minimize the risk of flare-ups, officials added.

Greece has managed to avoid the extreme temperatures raging through counties in Western Europe, but fire officials have said that hot and dry conditions that have lasted for weeks, as well as rising temperatures, have increased the overall risk of forest fires.

Last year, wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as it experienced its worst heat wave in 30 years.

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A woman walks in front of smoke from a fire in the area of Drafi, east of Athens on July 20. AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

Italy

A firefighting helicopter operates in Italy’s Campania region to extinguish a large fire that took place on the mountain of San Michele in the city of Maddaloni on July 19. Vincenzo Izzo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Meanwhile, Italian firefighters in Tuscany on Wednesday battled a wildfire that forced hundreds to evacuate as gas tanks caught in the flames exploded, while smoke from a blaze in the northeast forced a shipbuilder to shut down a plant employing 3,000.

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Several wildfires have broken out in Italy amid rising temperatures this week.

Nine cities were on the country’s highest heat wave alert, up from five on Tuesday. The total is expected to rise to 14 on Thursday, including Rome, Milan and Florence, and 16 on Friday.

Click to play video: 'Europe heat wave to persist into next week, will likely cause deaths: WMO' Europe heat wave to persist into next week, will likely cause deaths: WMO
Europe heat wave to persist into next week, will likely cause deaths: WMO – Jul 19, 2022

Temperatures are forecast to hit 40C across northern and central Italy this week, as well as in Puglia in the south and the islands of Sardinia and Sicily.

On Wednesday, a fire that broke out on Monday evening near the Tuscan town of Lucca continued to burn, having already destroyed some 1,400 acres of woods, officials said. Around 500 people had to evacuate as the flames ripped through villages, causing some liquefied gas tanks to explode.

In the northeastern Friuli Venezia Giulia region, residents were urged to stay indoors because of heavy smoke from a wildfire that started on Tuesday in the Carso area near Croatia and Slovenia. The fire prompted state-owned shipbuilder Fincantieri to shut down its plant in the port city of Monfalcone.

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What remains of the vegetation after the vast fire that took place on the mountain of San Michele in the city of Maddaloni, Italy on July 19. Vincenzo Izzo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Spain

A firefighting plane flies over a forest fire in the Chiloeches area in the Guadalajara Province in Spain on July 19. Rafael Martin/Europa Press via AP

Cooler weather gave firefighters in Spain some brief respite on Wednesday, but temperatures are forecast to rise back to 40  C in the coming days.

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A series of blazes in Spain’s northwestern Galicia region has burned 85 houses and forced the evacuation of 1,400 people.

Read more: Summer arrives in Canada, and so does extreme heat. How to stay safe

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was in the area late on Tuesday and warned of “hard days ahead here in Galicia and the rest of Spain.”

More than 30 forest fires around Spain have forced the evacuation of thousands of people and blackened some 54,000 acres over the past week.

The current heat event is Spain’s second of the year. The country experienced a heat wave in mid-June that lasted a week and was said to be the earliest recorded in almost 40 years.

A hose crosses a burnt field after a wildfire in Litos, north-west Spain, on July 20. Bernat Armangue/AP

Portugal

An Air Tractor AT-802F “Fire Boss” airplane takes part in firefighting operations at Espite in Ourem, Portugal on July 13. Pedro Rocha/AFP via Getty Images

In neighbouring Portugal, at least 1,000 people have died due to the current heat, officials reported on Tuesday.

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Temperatures across drought-stricken Portugal passed 40 C last week. Although they have dropped in the last few days, Graça Freitas, head of health authority DGS, told Reuters that they remained above normal levels for this time of the year.

Read more: Extreme heat running up your hydro bill? How to save money and keep cool

DGS previously reported 238 excess deaths due to the heat wave from July 7 to 13, but Freitas said the number of fatalities has now increased to 1,063 for the period up to July 18.

High temperatures, an ongoing drought and bad forest management have been blamed for several wildfires sweeping across Portugal.

Officials have said more heat deaths are likely in coming days as high temperatures return.

The sun glows orange-red in the evening sky of Tomar, Portugal on July 13 while the air is filled with smoke and ash from forest fires, brought by hot winds. Viola Lopes/picture alliance via Getty Images

Germany

A man cools down in a fountain in central Berlin, Germany, on July 19. Markus Schreiber/AP

Authorities in Germany have issued a heat warning for most of the country, with temperatures in Berlin and Brandenburg expected to be in the 40C territory until Wednesday evening.

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In urban areas such as Berlin, nighttime temperatures are not expected to fall below 20 C, the municipality said on its website, citing the national weather service.

The lack of nighttime cooling will cause additional stress, especially in densely built-up urban areas, it added.

“Elderly people and those in need of care in particular are expected to be severely affected by the heat,” the city of Berlin said on its website.

People enjoy the summer weather at the Baltic Sea beach in Koserow on the island of Usedom, Germany, on July 20. Stefan Sauer/dpa via AP

Belgium

A man stops to let his dog drink from a fountain in Antwerp, Belgium, on July 19. Virginia Mayo/AP

To prepare for the hot weather, Belgian officials on Monday limited operating hours for public transport and businesses with temperatures nearing 40 C, Anadolu Agency reported.

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Belgium’s Royal Meteorological Institute issued an “orange warning” for two days of extreme heat Monday and Tuesday, advising people to drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol consumption, outdoor activities and sports.

Extreme heat waves have been extremely rare in Belgium, a country known for its temperate climate and relatively cool summers, the agency reported.

A woman sits on a chair under a shade tree as a man delivers beer on a main street in Antwerp, Belgium, on July 19. Virginia Mayo/AP

Netherlands

As the Dutch capital baked in the heat, municipal workers sprayed water on bridges over the city’s canals to prevent metal in the constructions expanding which can jam them shut blocking boat traffic in Amsterdam on July 19. Peter Dejong/AP

On Tuesday, the Netherlands recorded one of its hottest days ever — 38.9 C in Maastricht with temperatures expected to rise further, the BBC reported.

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The Dutch national weather service, KNMI, said on its website Wednesday much of the country remained under a heat warning. In the country’s east, the temperatures were expected to sit anywhere between 30 to 33C.

Click to play video: 'Wildfires ravage France, Spain as residents flee from burning homes' Wildfires ravage France, Spain as residents flee from burning homes
Wildfires ravage France, Spain as residents flee from burning homes – Jul 17, 2022

Petteri Taalas, the secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, said on Tuesday that more frequent and more extreme heat waves were an inevitable consequence of climate change.

“In the future, these kinds of heat waves are going to be normal. We will see stronger extremes. We have pumped so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that the negative trend will continue for decades,” Taalas said in a statement.

“I hope that this will be a wake-up call for governments.”

A man rubs in sunblock as a woman arranges her sunbed on the beach, as Europe braces for a heat wave, in Zandvoort on July 18. Ramon Van Flymen/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

— with files from The Associated Press and Reuters

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