Wildfires continue to rage in France as temperature records tumble

Firefighters in France continue to struggle to contain forest blazes that have ravaged thousands of hectares of land as temperatures have soared, as heat records have tumbled.

By 1500 GMT on 18 July, several records had been broken locally, Meteo France said in an update, with 42.6 degrees in Biscarosse and 42.4 in Cazaux on the Atlantic coast in western France, 40.7 in Saint-Nazaire and 39.3 in the Brittany port of Brest in the country’s northwest

In the coastal town of Arcachon in France’s southwestern Gironde region, firefighters were fighting to control two forest blazes that have devoured more than 10,000 hectares.

“It’s a Herculean job,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Olivier Chavatte from the fire and rescue service, which has 1,200 firefighters and five planes in action. 

“Several fires are still active in France,” interior minister Gerald Darmanin said in a tweet. “Our firefighters are fighting the flames with remarkable courage,” he added.

Over the past week, more than 14,000 people have been forced to decamp with seven emergency shelters set up in order to receive evacuees. 

Fires in the region have now spread over 14,800 hectares (36571.6 acres).

There have been no reports of injuries so far.

“The situation is very difficult with the heat and the wind. and will remain very difficult tonight,” local prefect Fabienne Buccio said on BFM television”

On 16 July, France placed 22 more departments, mainly down its Atlantic seaboard, on high orange alert, taking the current total to 38.

Authorities in the French Alps urged climbers bound for Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain, to postpone their trip due to repeated rock falls caused by “exceptional climatic conditions” and “drought”.

The call comes after a section of Italy’s biggest Alpine glacier gave way at the start of the month, killing 11 people in a disaster officials in an event blamed on climate change.

More than 1,000 deaths have been attributed to the nearly week-long heatwave in Portugal and Spain so far. Temperatures in Spain have reached as high as 45.7C (114F).

Spain’s weather agency issued temperature warnings for Sunday, with highs of 42 Celsius (108 Fahrenheit) forecast in Aragon, Navarra and La Rioja, in the north.

Fires were raging in several other regions including Castille and Leon in central Spain and Galicia in the north over the weekend.