Thousands of people and animals have been forced to flee their homes, and thousands of hectares of forest land burned to the ground amid a searing heatwave.
Europe has been hit by an early fire season due to an unusually dry, hot spring that left the soil parched. Authorities attribute this to climate change. They add that the fires are being fanned by earlier-than-usual extreme temperatures and drought conditions in some parts.
Wildfire experts agree as they see clear climate change signatures in the dryness, high heat, and early fire season.
Wildfires have raged through France over the last few weeks, as well as in other European countries like Portugal and Spain, as temperatures have soared.
The fires around the town of Teste-de-Buch in the Gironde have stabilised, having swept through more than 3,000 hectares since the beginning of the crisis.
In the nearby town of Landiras, where 6,500 hectares have been burnt and 2,200 people evacuated, the fires continued to spread overnight, pushed southwest by strong winds.
In Portugal, five regions in the centre and north – where temperatures hit a July record 47C (117F) on Thursday before dropping back – were on red alert again on Friday as more than 2,000 firefighters tackled four major blazes.
Portuguese health minister Marta Temido said on Thursday the health system faced a “particularly worrying” week due to the heatwave and said some hospitals were overwhelmed.
Between July 7 and July 13, Portugal registered 238 excess deaths due to the heatwave, the country’s DGS health authority said.
In neighbouring Spain, where temperatures were as high as 37C (99F) by 7am on Saturday, a fire that broke out on Thursday near the Monfrague national park, a protected area renowned for wildlife in the Extremadura region, continued to blaze.
Spanish authorities reported close to 20 fires still raging out of control with one near Mijas in the deep south, inland from regional capital Malaga, forcing some 2,300 people to evacuate their homes.
In southwestern France, flames have destroyed some 7,700 hectares (19,000 acres) since Tuesday and forced the evacuation of 11,000 people – including many holidaymakers who decided to abandon their vacation rather than remain in makeshift shelters set up by local authorities.
The Bordeaux public prosecutor indicated a “criminal” origin was its main line of inquiry for at least one fire near the southwestern city.
Southern France, battling temperatures around 40C (104F) on Friday, is bracing for more heat next week with 16 departments already on orange, a severe alert.
French President Emmanuel Macron promised authorities would do everything to mobilize resources to fight the fallout.
Meanwhile, Britain’s weather forecaster issued its first red “extreme heat” warning for parts of England on Monday and Tuesday. United Kingdom hospitals have warned of a surge in heat-related admissions and train operators have told passengers to expect cancellations.
The highest recorded temperature in Britain was 38.7C (101.7F) recorded in Cambridge on July 25, 2019.
The Irish meteorological office issued a weather warning for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday with “exceptionally warm weather”.
A high of 32C was possible on Monday, the service said, just short of Ireland’s record high 33.3C (92F) set in 1887.