Heatwave Sweeps Across Europe, Many People Forced to Flee
With the recent surge in heatwave showing no signs of abating, thousands of firefighters are aggressively combating wildfires in the United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain, and France.
Due to human-induced climate change, heat waves are expected to become more frequent, more intense, as well as last longer. Abnormal temperatures, in both the high and low extremes, are expected to begin affecting areas that do not normally see those temperatures.
In reaction to the increase in fires that have occurred during this heat wave that has set records throughout Europe and the United Kingdom, London’s fire fighting authorities have declared this a major incident in the British capital.
The London Fire Brigade deployed dozens of fire engines on Tuesday, July 19th including 30 vehicles to a grass fire in east London. Television footage showed the fire engulfing numerous residences.
On Wednesday, July 20th, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said, “Yesterday was the busiest day for the fire service since the Second World War.”
The brigade stated that “Firefighters are still meeting the needs of our communities, but declaring a major incident allows us to focus our resources.”
According to the UK Meteorological Office, the UK saw its hottest temperature ever on Tuesday just before 12:00 GMT when it reached 40.2C (104.4F) at London’s Heathrow Airport.
The Met Office issued a warning that the country was facing a life-threatening heat wave and that temperatures were “still climbing in many places.”
A pilot from northern Portugal died in the Foz Coa region in a town close to the Spanish border when his water bombing aircraft crashed while trying to subdue a wildfire in the area.
According to Portuguese authorities, at least 238 people have passed away from heat-related causes in the past week. The nation recorded a new national high of 47C (117F) during the heatwave.
More Insights on this intense heatwave…
Over 12,000 people have been evacuated from towns in southwest France as wildfires engulf the area.
Trains were canceled, schools were closed, typically busy city centers were calm, and emergency services apparently received an increase in 999 calls as the country sweltered.
The UK has been placed under a state of national emergency due to the recorded temperatures, which scientists have linked to climate change.
The UK frequently struggles to cope with excessive heat or cold. After at least two airport runways showed signs of damage and several train tracks crumbled in the heat, Transport Minister Grant Shapps warned it would be many years before the country could fully modernize its infrastructure to withstand greater temperatures.
He told the BBC that the “infrastructure, much of which was built in Victorian times, just wasn’t built to withstand this type of temperature.” One example of infrastructure crumbling under the record-breaking heat is the tarmac at Heathrow Airport reportedly melting during the heatwave.
Although temperatures in Spain and Portugal have dropped back to typical summer levels following the Mid-July heatwave, firefighters in both countries are still battling multiple blazes.
More than 30 wildfires are still raging throughout Spain and France.
Greece’s national fire department reported that within a 24-hour period, firefighters there put out 73 flames. The civil protection agency issued a warning about a very high risk of fires throughout the country.
Still on the News…
Tens of thousands of people have already been forced to abandon their homes due to the blazes raging across the continent.
The World Meteorological Organization cautioned that temperatures might continue to be above average into the middle of next week as the heatwave in Europe appeared to have peaked and temperatures were beginning to trend downwards.
The UN agency also issued a warning, stating that such incidents were anticipated to happen more frequently in the future due to climate change.
According to WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas during a news briefing, “The direction is clear, and in the future, these kinds of heat waves are going to be normal, and we will see even stronger extremes.”
According to officials at the same briefing, the prolonged heatwave is predicted to cause more deaths among the elderly and people with pre-existing diseases, as well as significant difficulties for the healthcare system due to increasing demand.
Climate scientists proposed that it was very likely that heat waves were getting worse due to climate change in a study published in June 2022 in the Environmental Research journal.
The use of fossil fuels is still prevalent, and efforts to slow global warming are failing. Scientists estimate that in order to avert the worst effects of climate change, global carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced by nearly half by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.