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News >  Nation/World

Spain devastated by wildfires amid record-breaking heat wave

UPDATED: Mon., June 20, 2022

By Jennifer Hassan The Washington Post

Wildfires in Spain have destroyed thousands of acres of land and forced hundreds of residents to flee their homes amid a punishing heat wave across Europe.

Some of the fires continue to burn, with firefighters working to extinguish flames that have now ravaged about 49,000 acres, according to the regional government of Castile and León. On Friday, the World Meteorological Organization warned that all of Spain faced “extreme fire risk” because of the heat and drought.

The early heat wave broke some records in Spain, with Valencia Airport setting a record June high on Friday, logging a temperature of 102 degrees Fahrenheit and surpassing records set in 2017. In Madrid, temperatures rose to around 105 degrees Fahrenheit in what the State Meteorological Agency said was the earliest major heat wave in more than four decades.

“What we’re witnessing today is unfortunately a foretaste of the future,” Clare Nullis, a spokeswoman for the World Meteorological Organization, told the Independent over the weekend as she warned that early heat waves were being propelled by climate change.

Johan Rockström, director of the German government-funded Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, on Twitter called the scenes in Europe “the new normal” and warned that extreme weather would only worsen if global emissions are not cut.

Sierra de la Culebra, a mountain range in Castile and León, in northwest Spain, was one of the areas most devastated, with one workers’ association calling the forest fire “a real monster” as it formed a towering orange wall along what was once a lush green landscape.

On Monday, emergency aircraft dropped water onto rural land in the west of the country to stop flames from reigniting, while forest fires continued to burn in areas including Navarre and Catalonia, the Reuters news agency reported.

Hundreds of firefighters have been working across several regions including Zamora, in the northwest, and Valencia, in the southeast, to extinguish flames.

Officials in Catalonia, in the northeast, said over the weekend that emergency services were struggling to contain more than 30 fires, the Guardian reported.

Europe’s heat wave also struck France, and a warning was issued in Britain by the Health Security Agency as the country recorded its hottest day of the year. Temperatures in London passed 89 degrees Fahrenheit because of what experts said was a blast of hot air from North Africa.

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