On the Canary Island of La Palma, an area of around 45 square kilometers burned down within a few hours. Spain and other countries in southern Europe continue to suffer from an unprecedented heatwave and drought.
On the Spanish holiday island of La Palma, more than 4,500 hectares of land burned within a few hours on Saturday, an area the size of around 6,500 soccer fields. “The fire is spreading very quickly,” said Fernando Clavijo, President of the Canary Islands Regional Government. According to the authorities, 4,300 people had to leave their homes. At least eleven houses were completely burned down, but no one was injured, it said.
The flames would be favored “by the wind, the climate, the heat wave,” Clavijo told journalists. Originally, the authorities had spoken of more than 2,000 hectares of burned land, but the figure has since been corrected upwards. “This is a fire that has spread extremely quickly,” said Tourism Minister Héctor Gómez.
Tens of thousands of acres burned in total
According to the authorities, the fire broke out near the town of Puntagorda. Around 300 firefighters were deployed, supported by eleven firefighting aircraft and helicopters. At least some relaxation is in sight: the weather conditions have now become much better, said a spokesman for the island government. There is a significantly higher humidity and also lower temperatures. This will help the fire brigade fight the flames.
All of Spain, including its islands, is suffering from unusual heat and drought this year. The country experienced the hottest spring since weather records began, and Spain is currently groaning under a heat wave. The weather conditions favor the outbreak of fires. Since the beginning of the year, 66,000 hectares of land have already burned in Spain.
Red alert in Italy
Other European countries are also currently experiencing an unprecedented heat wave. In Italy, the Ministry of Health issued a red alert heat warning for the weekend in Rome, Bologna and Florence, among other places. This level indicates an “emergency situation with possible negative effects on the health of healthy and active people,” explained the ministry.
The Italian weather service said it feared “the most intense heat wave of the summer, but also one of the most intense on record”. On Tuesday it could be 42 or 43 degrees hot in Rome. The previous heat record of 40.5 degrees from August 2007 for the Italian capital could thus fall. On the popular Italian Mediterranean island of Sardinia, the highest temperature ever measured in Europe of 48.8 degrees could be exceeded. According to the newspaper “Il Messaggero”, two amateur footballers aged 48 and 51 died in the Naples region as a result of symptoms apparently caused by the heat.
record temperatures in Greece
In Greece, local maximum values of around 44 degrees Celsius were measured. That was the highest temperature of the year so far, said the National Observatory. Meteorologists do not expect the heat to drop.
For the second day in a row, the authorities closed the Acropolis in Athens for the hottest hours. As the Ministry of Culture announced, the landmark remained closed until 5:30 p.m. Now it’s open again. On Friday, a tourist suffered mild heat stroke while visiting Acropolis Hill.
The Greek Ministry of Environment and Energy called for a reduction in the use of private cars because exhaust gases in conurbations such as Athens and Thessaloniki polluted the air more in the heat. In addition, due to the increased risk of fire, caution was advised when handling fuels such as petrol.
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