Friday, 12 Aug 2022

Pilot killed trying to put out blaze as wildfires burn across Europe

A pilot has been killed while trying to put out a wildfire in Portugal, one of several burning across Europe this week.

The country has seen some of the worst fires, with hundreds of people forced to flee their homes and more than 160 injured.

The pilot died when his plane crashed during a firefighting operation in the northeast.

Fire season has started earlier than usual in some parts of Europe this year after an unusually dry, hot spring which left the soil parched.

As the worst in France continues to burn its way towards towns, some of the 11,000 people evacuated in the Bordeaux region described their fears about what they’d find when they get home.

Dramatic images shared by firefighters there show huge flames engulfing masses of pine trees with thick black smoke billowing across the horizon.

Charles Lafourcade is overseeing the firefighting operation in France.

He told reporters on Saturday that his teams will be focusing their efforts on surrounding the most at risk villages in the hope of saving as many homes as possible.

Greece has sent over firefighting equipment to help the 3,000 officers battling the blazes with the help of water-dumping planes.

The emergency services said they managed to contain one of the worst infernos overnight, near the Atlantic coast resort of Arcachon which is popular with tourists from across the continent.

But they said ‘tough meteorological conditions’ thwarted efforts to contain the biggest fire in the region, which started in the town of Landiras, south of a valley of Bordeaux vineyards.

Regional prosecutors suspect arson.

The two fires have burned at least 23,800 acres of land in recent days.

A similar scene is playing out in Portugal, where more than 1,000 firefighters worked Saturday alongside ordinary citizens desperate to save their homes after a long week of battling multiple blazes that kept flaring up around the country.

The fires have been fanned by earlier-than-usual extreme temperatures and drought conditions.

Portuguese state television RTP reported Friday that the area burned this year has already exceeded the total for 2021.

More than 74,000 acres of land has been burned, it said, most in the past week.

Across the border, Spain was struggling to contain several fires, including two that have burned about 18,200 acres of land.

In southern Andalusia, some 3,000 people were evacuated from villages in danger from a blaze started near the village of Mijas in the province of Malaga.

Around 200 firefighters supported by 18 aircraft tried to contain the fire. Authorities were investigating its cause.

For a sixth day, firefighters were also trying to bring under control a fire started by a lightning strike in the west-central Las Hurdes area.

Some 400 people from eight villages were evacuated Friday as the flames approached their houses and threatened to spread into the nearby Monfrague National Park.

Croatia and Hungary have also fought wildfires this week, as have California and Morocco.

Many European countries are facing exceptional heat this month also attributed to climate change.

Portuguese authorities said a July national high of 47°C was registered in the northern town of Pinhao on Wednesday.

In the UK, the Met Office issued its first-ever ‘red warning’ for extreme heat for Monday and Tuesday, when temperatures in southern England could potentially hit 40°C.

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