Spain wildfire triggers more evacuations
Local officials on Saturday evacuated some 200 people from a campsite in the town.
About 500 firefighters and soldiers backed by 14 water-dropping aircraft were battling the wildfire that started Friday evening in the central town of Almorox.
Firefighters said that temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), low humidity, and high winds which frequently changed direction were making it hard to put out the blaze.
„I would like to say that the fire will be brought under control today but everything indicates that it will be impossible,” the president of the regional government of Madrid, Pedro Rollan, told reporters.
Officials said another blaze near the city of Toledo some 60 kilometres away which forced the evacuation of 22 residents had been brought under control on Sunday.
Meanwhile, a major blaze in the northeastern region of Catalonia „could be controlled by this evening,” the regional government said in a statement, adding that it would „take days” to fully extinguish it.
The fires come as Europe is hit by a major heatwave, with temperatures in some parts of France reaching record highs.
Meteorologists blame a blast of hot air from northern Africa for scorching temperatures early in the European summer, but the heatwave is forecast to die down from Sunday.
Hundreds of firefighters battled new wildfires in France and Spain on Saturday as the European heatwave claimed three more lives in Italy.
More than 700 firefighters had to be mobilised to bring 60 separate fires under control in the southern French département of Gard.
At least 15 homes were destroyed and 1,500 acres of land were left scorched and blackened land.
In Spain, firefighters managed to contain 90 per cent of the worst wildfire in 20 years that had raged across 23 square miles of land in Catalonia, but two other wildfires were still burning in central Spain.
British expats told ion Saturday how they fled for their lives with nothing but the clothes on their backs as the wildfire encircled their rural homes in Catalonia last week.
“I was terrified. I thought I was going to die,” Eve Sweeney told the Catalan News Agency (ACN). “I tried to walk away from the fire, but it was coming back around me, so I thought I’m not going to escape. I walked for about 5km, alone with my dog, and we got so lucky.”
Ms Sweeney took refuge with 30 other evacuees at a school in the village of Flix. The fire had devastated almost 15,000 acres by the time it was brought under control.
“I’m devastated. I don’t know what’s left of my home, if anything. I think maybe it’s gone,” Ms Sweeney said. “I know both my car and my camper van have gone. The house may have survived a bit, but not much.”
“We could see ash coming down onto the house and the planes spraying water on the other side of the hill next to us,” Sam Evans, another British expat who fled with his five dogs, told ACN. “We’ve been provided with lots of things, basically anything we’ve needed.”
Across the border in the south of France, people breathed a sigh of relief as temperatures began to fall and authorities lifted the red alert which had been declared for the first time as the temperature hit 45.9C.
But Paris wilted during its hottest day of the heatwave, with a high of 38C, and many Parisians stayed indoors behind curtains and shutters, while the more adventurous swam in the Canal Saint Martin.
People rushed to buy electric fans, but stocks were quickly exhausted. High-speed trains were forced to slow down because of fears the extreme heat was causing rails to expand, and sections of motorway were closed.
The French government has imposed emergency measures including cold rooms in public buildings and temporary water fountains. Parks are being left unlocked at night so people can cool off.
The torrid heat has scorched vineyards in southern France, causing up to 40 per cent of grapes to wither on the vines in the Languedoc region.
In Italy, three people were reported to have died of heat-related causes. Milan saw sporadic power blackouts as the demand for air conditioning strained the electricity supply.
The captain of a volunteer migrant rescue ship faces a potential jail sentence in Italy after she forced her vessel’s way into harbour over fears for the safety of her passengers amid the heatwave.
Some 40 rescued migrants have been on the Sea-Watch 3 for six weeks while the vessel was locked in a stand-off with Italian authorities who refused to allow it to land.
Captain Carlota Rackete, the ship’s German skipper, said in a video statement she decided to land on the Italian island of Lampedusa without permission over fears for her passengers’ safety. She was arrested and faces up to ten years in jail if convicted.
France roasts in record heatwave, two die in Spain
By Inti Landauro and Emma Pinedo
PARIS/MADRID (Reuters) – France registered its highest temperature since records began on Friday as the death toll rose from a heatwave suffocating much of Europe.
The mercury hit 45.9 degrees Celsius (114.6 Fahrenheit) in Gallargues-le-Montueux, in the southern Provence region, weather forecaster Meteo France said, nearly two degrees above the previous high of 44.1 Celsius recorded in August 2003.
Twelve towns in southern France saw new all-time highs on Friday and three experienced temperatures above 45 degrees, it said.
The World Meteorological Organization said 2019 was on track to be among the world’s hottest years, and that 2015-2019 would then be the hottest five-year period on record.
It said the European heatwave was „absolutely consistent” with extremes linked to the impact of greenhouse gas emissions.
Four administrative departments in France were placed on red alert, signaling temperatures of „dangerous intensity” that are more typical of Saudi Arabia.
The unusually high temperatures are forecast to last until early next week.
In Spain, where temperature peaked above 43 degrees for the second day running, wildfires raged across 60 sq km (23 sq miles) of land in the northeastern Tarragona province. Officials said firefighters battling the blazes on 20 fronts managed to avoid them from spreading.
In the central region, a fire broke out on the outskirts of Toledo, forcing the evacuation of two public buildings, a regional official told Reuters.
To the north in Valladolid, a man of 93 collapsed and died due to the heat, police said. And in a small town outside Cordoba, a 17-year-old died of heat-related effects after jumping into a swimming pool to cool off.
Since 1975, Spain has registered nine heatwaves in June, including five in the last decade, according to the Spanish meteorological office.
In France, one boy was seriously hurt when he was thrown back by a jet of water from a fire hydrant. Some 4,000 schools were either closed or running a limited service to help working parents unable to stay at home.
State-run rail operator SNCF offered free cancellations or exchanges on long-distance trips, social workers helped homeless people cope with the heat, and French families with elderly relatives who were ill or living alone were advised to call or visit them twice a day and take them to cool places.
The greater Paris region, Ile de France, has banned more than half of cars from its roads as the stifling heat worsened air pollution, the toughest restriction provided for — although all cars were to be allowed to leave the city as school holidays began.
The cities of Lyon, Strasbourg and Marseille have also restricted traffic.
(Reporting by Inti Landauro, Richard Lough and Geert De Clercq in Paris; Emma Pinedo and Paul Day in Madrid; Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Catherine Evans and John Stonestreet)
Between 7,000 and 13,000 people are believed to have been displaced by Mount Ulawun’s eruption
Troops have been sent to help thousands of people displaced by a volcanic eruption on a remote archipelago in Papua New Guinea, the prime minister said Friday, as a second volcano erupted.
Lava and ash flows from Mount Ulawun — one of the world’s most hazardous volcanoes — have subsided, but between 7,000 and 13,000 people are believed to have been displaced and a state of emergency has been declared.
„We will mobilise the military to go in and assess the situation, and we will despatch the military to assist on the ground,” said Prime Minister James Marape.
„The governor is already on the ground assessing the situation, and once I receive the report, we will see how we can best assist.”
Local MP Joseph Lelang said as many as 13,000 people may have been displaced, and 1,000 have lost their homes, while Leo Porikura, an official with the West New Britain Disaster Office, put the number of displaced at around 7,000.
„Our focus now is providing relief supplies to the people affected by the volcanic eruption,” he said.
Steven Saunders, a surveyor at Rabaul Volcano Observatory, confirmed there was a small one-off explosion from Ulawun in the early hours but it was not sustained, and activity has eased.
The emergency response was hampered by the closure of the region’s main airport, which Saunders said was covered by around three centimetres of ash and remained closed.
As the authorities were struggling to get to grips with disruption caused by Mount Ulawun, volcanologists reported that the nearby island volcano of Manam had begun to erupt.
Australia’s Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre reported satellite imagery indicated an ongoing eruption.
Manam is one of Papua New Guinea’s most active volcanos and last erupted in January.
It is a volcanic cone that towers out of the sea north of Papua New Guinea’s mainland and has a history of eruptions, with significant activity in November 2004 forcing the evacuation of some 9,000 people.