Temperature records were exceeded Monday in several French cities, under a heat wave in Western Europe which risks in particular to cross the United Kingdom on Tuesday the threshold of 40 ° C for the first time.
This is the second phenomenon of its kind in barely a month in Europe, and it has led to violent fires in the Iberian Peninsula as well as in France.
The multiplication of heat waves is a direct consequence of global warming according to scientists, with greenhouse gas emissions increasing in intensity, duration and frequency.
In France, the map has turned crimson over a large part of the Atlantic coast, with 15 departments on red alert for a heat wave.
Records have been broken in several cities – 39.5°C in Saint-Brieuc, 42°C in Nantes or 42.6°C in Biscarosse, according to Météo France. The absolute record in the country, 46°C, was reached on June 28, 2019 in Vérargues (South).
The “preventive evacuation” of 8,000 people was undertaken on Monday in two districts of La Teste-de-Buch (south-west), a town in the very touristic Arcachon basin affected by a huge fire for several days, at the edge of the Atlantic, announced the prefecture.
“I’m going to my daughter’s [dans un autre quartier de La Teste]but if it burns there too, I don’t know what to do, ”says Patricia Monteil, a forty-year-old filling her car “in panic”.
Referring to “non-standard” blazes, the director of the Gironde fire brigade, Marc Vermeulen, underlines that unprecedented phenomena are observed on the spot: “the fire literally explodes”, “the 40-year-old pine trunks burst”.
In the other disaster area, in Landiras, in the south of the Gironde, around 8,000 people also had to leave their homes behind on Monday.
More than 15,500 hectares of vegetation have already burned in the department. Five campsites from which 6,000 holidaymakers had been evacuated on Wednesday night, at the foot of the Dune du Pilat, “90% burned”, according to the authorities.
The warming is really here
In the UK, 38.1°C was recorded in the east of England, the highest temperature this year, the third on record.
For the first time, the UK Health Security Agency has issued a level 4 alert, the highest level, corresponding to a national emergency, warning of the risks that the heat poses to even young or healthy people .
“Global warming is really here. We must act in the face of this phenomenon… and also learn to live with it, ”commented Gary Evans, a 68-year-old retiree, in the seaside resort of Tankerton, in the south-east of the country.
The highest temperatures in Britain are expected on Tuesday and could exceed the 40°C threshold, a first in the country’s history. The British record dates back to July 25, 2019, with 38.7 degrees recorded in Cambridge, in the east of England. Some schools will remain closed, while major disruptions are expected in transport.
On Monday, Wales already exceeded its record with 37.1°C. At Kew Gardens, London, a similar temperature (37.5°C) was recorded.
Traffic at London’s Luton Airport has been suspended due to a ‘surface defect’ on the runway caused by the heat.
Fires in Spain
Spain has been in the grip of a suffocating heat wave for more than a week which has caused numerous fires, ravaging tens of thousands of hectares.
On Monday, almost the entire country remained on “extreme risk” fire alert, the highest. Spain, which has been suffocating since July 10 with highs well above 40°C and falling little at night, should experience a very short respite at the start of the week.
“Climate change kills people […] but also our ecosystem, our biodiversity ”, reacted Monday the president of the government, Pedro Sanchez.
Raging fires have killed a shepherd in northwestern Spain, the second fatality after a firefighter in the same area on Sunday.
After breaking its temperature record for July on Thursday, with 47°C recorded in the north of the country, Portugal should experience a much cooler day, which would put an end to a week of heat waves.
In the center and north of the country, some 800 firefighters were still fighting four fires on Monday. According to civil protection, the forest fires in ten days caused four deaths and five serious injuries, and led to the evacuation of 960 people.
A couple in their 70s was found dead in their charred car, the mayor of Murca (north) announced on Monday. “They were at home in the village of Penabeice and decided to flee when the flames approached their house,” added Mario Artur Lopes. Their car has apparently left the road.
Nearly 44,000 hectares have burned since the start of the year, according to the Institute for Nature and Forest Conservation, more than in 2017, when the fires killed around 100 people.
The Netherlands recorded its hottest day of the year so far on Monday, with the temperature reaching 35.4°C in the southwestern town of Westdorpe. On Tuesday, temperatures could reach 39°C in the south and center of the Netherlands.
Belgium also fears heat records on Tuesday, the thermometer can climb in places up to 40 ° C, according to the Royal Institute of Meteorology. Schedules have been arranged for certain trades exposed to heat.
Around half of the territory of the European Union is currently at risk of drought due to the prolonged lack of precipitation, which exposes countries such as France, Romania, Spain, Portugal and Italy to a likely decline in crop yields, according to the European Commission.