Spain sizzles in crushing heat as fires burn on

Blazes continue as state weather bureau reports what appears to be record temperature

Fires in Spain's central Avila province forced hundreds of people to flee their homes on Sunday as parts of the country sweltered under crushing temperatures.

One fire, which has been burning in the city Navalcruz since Saturday morning, has been fed by winds of up to 70kph across the Iberian Peninsula.

It now has a perimeter of more than 40 kilometres and may already have burnt more than 5,000 hectares, said Jose Angel Arranz, forestry director of the Castilla y Leon region.

The authorities have already moved at least 600 people from five towns in the Avila district, near the Sierra de Gredos mountain range.

More than 500 firefighters are tackling the blaze with the help of aircraft.

About 80km to the south, 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.

It has burnt more than 500ha, the regional government in Valencia said, and was 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 weather bureau recorded what appeared to be a record temperature.

Their provisional data registered a peak of 47.4°C about 5pm in the southern city of Cordoba.

That is a 0.1°C higher than the previous record, also set there, in July 2017.

"If confirmed, it would be the highest record reliably measured in Spain," bureau spokesman Ruben del Campo said.

Although temperatures are expected to ease in the coming days, several parts of the country, including the region of Andalucia Murcia in the south-east, endured temperatures of more than 45°C, Mr del Campo said.

That made this heatwave "probably one of the most intense experienced in Spain", he said.

Climate scientists have repeatedly warned that man-made global warming will bring higher temperatures and more extreme weather events across the world.

Other countries including 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, the agency said.

In Spain on Sunday, five regions across the country were still on alert over extreme temperatures.

In northern Spain, cyclists endured temperatures of up to 31°C as they competed in the second stage of La Vuelta, between Caleruega and Burgos.

Updated: August 15th 2021, 10:22 PM
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