France: Firefighters tackle huge wildfire
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The heat stored in city floors throughout the day is only released into the air about six to 10 hours after direct sunlight stops penetrating. This “delayed effect” makes it more difficult for urban areas to cool down, lengthening the impact of high temperatures beyond the hours of sun and light.
The risk of excess mortality during a heatwave is assessed on the basis of night-time heat indicators.
When temperatures don’t fall below 20C for three consecutive nights, the threat to people rises significantly, the head of studies on climate, air and energy at the Paris Region Institute explained.
As residents in the French capital brace themselves for the 39C the city is set to reach on Tuesday, Mr Cordeau said: “Unlike the countryside, which cools down easily at night, heat is difficult to disperse in cities because of the materials.
“Our body needs to cool down at night,” the expert told national media, adding that exposure to heat both day and night can be a problem.
Paris authorities announced Monday most of the capital’s parks — Monceau, Montsouris, Georges-Brassens, André-Citroën, Buttes-Chaumont.. — will remain open until midnight until Tuesday, while some schoolyards and “refreshed rooms” will be publically both days’ evenings too.
Extra resources have been put in place for the approximately 10,000 vulnerable people registered in Paris, who will be contacted by phone by doctors and volunteers to assess their state of health.
Elsewhere across the country, Météo-France has extended its red heatwave alert to more than a dozen departments, warning of “hazardous conditions of exceptional intensity.”
The weather service said: “15 departments on the Atlantic coast are placed on heatwave red alert. Orange heatwave vigilance is extended to the north and centre of the country to a total of 51 departments
“The heat is increasing, and the heatwave is spreading over the country.”
Wildfires are a growing concern, with Jean-Luc Gleyze, Gironde’s regional president, saying the blaze in the southwestern French region, which he dubbed the size of a “monster octopus”, is proving increasingly hard to stop.
He told the BBC: “It’s a monster like an octopus, and it’s growing and growing and growing in the front, in the back, on both sides.
“Because of the temperature, because of the wind, because of the lack of water in the air… it’s a monster and it’s very difficult to fight against it.”
Experts warned only a break in the heatwave can stop the horror fire that has scorched an area twice the size of Paris.
Sebastien Lahaye, former firefighter and coordinator with European projects on fire management, said: “These fires are no longer controllable.”
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Speaking to FranceInfo, he added: “The only way for the fires to stop sustainably is a change in weather conditions.”
In Portugal and Spain, more than 1,000 deaths have been attributed to the week-long heatwave.
Temperatures in Spain have reached as high as 45.7C.
Fires were raging in several regions including Castille and Leon in central Spain and Galicia in the north on Sunday afternoon, while firefighters stabilised a blaze in Mijas, in the Malaga province.
Around 1,000 firefighters tried to control 13 forest and rural fires in the centre and north of Portugal, the largest being near the northern city of Chaves, over the weekend.
The country’s Health Ministry said throughout last week, 659 people died due to the heatwave, most of them elderly.
A study published in June in the journal Environmental Research: Climate concluded it was highly probable that climate change was making heatwaves worse.
Study co-author Ben Clarke, an environmental scientist at the University of Oxford, said: “Pretty much all heatwaves across the world have been made more intense and more likely by climate change.”
In general, a heatwave that previously had a one in 10 chance of occurring is now nearly three times as likely — and peaking at temperatures around 1C higher — than it would have been without climate change, the researchers found.
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega
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