EU warns over drought risks as temperatures soar

Europe could be facing one of its worst ever years when it comes to drought, as soaring temperatures and extremely dry weather continue to affect several Mediterranean countries, according to EU Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič.

Last month a wildfire raged out of control on Evia, Greece’s second-largest island, highlighting the growing risk, with Šefčovič, Commissioner for Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight, noting that the EU is already funding the deployment of over 200 firefighters from across the bloc to deal with fires in Greece.

Extended drought conditions have hit several other EU member states, heightening concern across Europe for the months ahead.

In June it was also reported that an exceptionally early heatwave in France and Spain could stress wheat crops, coming after a notably dry spring.

Italy is currently experiencing its worst drought in 70 years, and authorities worry that prolonged drought could lead to serious shortages of water for drinking and irrigation, affecting local populations across the whole of northern Italy.

In June it was reported that water was so low in large stretches of Italy’s largest river, the Po, that local residents were walking through the middle of the expanse of sand and shipwrecks were resurfacing.

On Friday, Portugal’s government declared an eight-day state of alert due to a heightened risk of wildfires, with the drought-stricken country preparing for temperatures as high as 43°C. 

The restrictions adopted Friday include barring public access to forests deemed to be at high risk. Indeed, at the end of June 96% of the country was classified as being in either “extreme” or “severe” drought.

Meanwhile, in Spain, reservoirs are at 45% capacity, on average, according to government data, a worrying development for an EU member state that saw rainfall of just half of its 30-year average in June. 

The country is in its second heatwave this year after recording its earliest ever heatwave in June this year – with temperatures surpassing 40F in parts of central and southern Spain.

Warm summer sunshine combined with a hot air front from North Africa have sent temperatures soaring, state meteorological forecaster AEMET said on Sunday, and the heatwave could last until 14 July.

The highest recorded temperature on Sunday was 43C (110F) by the Guadalquivir river near Seville in southern Spain and in Badajoz, towards the west of the country, forecasters said.

In Spain, reservoirs are at 45% capacity, on average, according to government data, a worrying development for an EU member state that saw rainfall of just half of its 30-year average in June.

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