Deadly wildfires burn across Europe as temperatures rise

Firefighters struggle to contain spreading blazes amid unrelenting summer heat

Wildfire burns near the village of Dadia in Greece, where the temperature is forecast to reach 42°C in some regions. Reuters
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French prosecutors issued arson charges on Monday as wildfires rage across Europe in a blistering heatwave stretching from Greece to the UK with temperatures surging above 40°C.

The hot weather has created arid, tinderbox-like conditions in many rural areas, sparking blazes that have led to deaths and the evacuation of homes.

Greece is reeling under a heatwave that began on Saturday and is expected to last 10 days, with the temperature likely to reach 42°C in some regions.

Firefighters in the country are battling three major wildfires, including a conflagration in the southern Peloponnese region which prompted the evacuation of six villages on Sunday.

More than 300 Greek firefighters were on Monday attempting to control the flames at Dadia National Park, an area of outstanding natural beauty known for its colony of black vultures.

The fire has already destroyed nearly 500 hectares of woodland.

Emergency services are also attempting to extinguish a wildfire on the island of Lesbos near the Turkish coast, which led to the beach resort of Vatera and neighbouring villages being evacuated.

Twenty-five firefighters have been injured. Five houses, a restaurant and a nightclub were destroyed, along with five campsites.

Prosecutors say two fires in north-west France last week were caused by arson.

The two fires in normally wet and blustery north-west Brittany came during a fierce heatwave that has scorched Europe over the past two weeks.

The Brittany fires were relatively small compared with two others further south that have destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of dry woodland in the Gironde region around Bordeaux.

More than 2,000 firefighters backed by planes and helicopters have been battling the flames in Gironde since July 12. A total of 36,000 people were evacuated from their homes and camp sites in the area.

The biggest wildfire — inland, near the village of Landiras — has eventually been contained, senior local official Fabienne Buccio said on Monday.

"The fire is still not out," she stressed, but it was no longer spreading.

It, too, is being treated as arson, prosecutors said last week, but a 39-year-old suspect has been released due to lack of evidence.

Fire has also damaged vast areas of forest in Spain and neighbouring Portugal.

Two people were killed by a wildfire ripping across the northern Portuguese municipality of Murca.

Close to 200,000 hectares of forest in Spain have been lost to fire so far this year, more than in any other nation in Europe, the EU's satellite monitoring service EFFIS says.

Portugal has lost more than 48,000 hectares to flames, the third-largest area of damage in Europe, surpassed only Romania and Spain.

Updated: July 25, 2022, 1:51 PM