Spain sizzles in crushing heat as fires blaze
Fires in Spain's central Avila province forced hundreds of people to flee their homes Sunday as parts of the country sweltered under crushing temperatures.
The fire, which has been burning in the city Navalcruz since Saturday morning, has been fed by winds of up to 70 kilometres an hour (54 miles per hour) across the Iberian peninsula.
It now has a perimeter of more than 40 kilometres and may already have burned more than 5,000 hectares (12,350 acres), said Jose Angel Arranz, forestry director of the Castilla y Leon region.
The authorities have already evacuated at least 600 people from five towns in the Avila district, near the Sierra de Gredos mountain range, and more than 500 firefighters are tackling the blaze with the help of specialised aircraft.
Around 80 kilometres to the south meanwhile, another fire, near El Raso, was still active. Like the one in Navalcruz, it is rated two on a three-point scale of seriousness.
The emergency services backed by 12 firefighting aircraft have also been fighting a blaze in Azuebar, eastern Spain, since Saturday, which has burned more than 500 hectares, the regional government in Valencia reported.
The blaze is threatening part of the Sierra de Espadan Natural Park.
On Twitter, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez sent a message of solidarity to those forced to flee their homes.
Spain has been in the grip of a heatwave since Wednesday, and the fires burn as the state meteorological agency (AEMET) recorded what appeared to be record temperatures.
Their provisional data registered a peak of 47.4 degrees Celsius (117.3 Fahrenheit) at around 5 pm (1500 GMT) in the southern city of Cordoba.
That is a tenth of a degree higher than the last record, also recorded there, in July 2017.
"If confirmed, it would be the highest record reliably measured in Spain," said AEMET spokesman Ruben del Campo.
Although temperatures are expected to ease in the coming days, several parts of the country, including the southern region of Andalucia Murcia in the southeast, endured temperatures of over 45 degrees Celsius, Del Campo added.
That made this heatwave "probably one of the most intense experienced in Spain", he said.
Climate scientists have repeatedly warned that manmade global warming will bring higher temperatures and more extreme weather events across the world.
European countries such as Greece and Turkey have already experienced heatwaves and wildfires this summer.
Between 2011 and 2020, Spain registered twice as many heatwaves as in the previous three decades, according to the agency.
In Spain on Sunday, five regions across the country were still on alert over extreme temperatures.
Even in northern Spain, cyclists endured temperatures of up to 31 degrees Celsius as they competed in the second stage of La Vuelta, between Caleruega and Burgos.
© 2021 AFP