Greece Fights Wild Fires as Heat Blankets Southern Europe

Fire fighters are struggling to contain blazes in Greece as southern Europe is poised to remain much hotter than normal this week.

(Bloomberg) — Fire fighters are struggling to contain blazes in Greece as southern Europe is poised to remain much hotter than normal this week. 

One of the fires is raging for a fourth day in the northeast near the Turkish border as authorities evacuated the hospital in Alexandroupolis as well as eight villages in the surrounding area. Red heat alerts remain in place for parts of Portugal, Italy and Switzerland and Germany, while nuclear output may be curbed in France over the weekend because of cooling water restrictions. 

It’s been a summer of extreme weather, ranging from wild fires in Canada to flooding and violent storms in Europe. Global warming is increasing the intensity of such events as the world’s hottest ever month was recorded in July. 

“Hotter-than-normal temperatures are the favored outcome from the central to south this week,” forecaster Maxar Technologies Inc. said in a daily report on Tuesday. That includes “the expectation for much to strongly above normal temperatures spanning from the Iberian Peninsula into the continental region and southeast.”

The heat wave is also increasing temperatures in the Alps and are threatening the glaciers in the region. The altitude at which the temperature falls to zero has now reached 5,298 meter, beating a previous record of 5,184 meter set in July last year, Meteo Suisse said in a tweet on Monday.

That means all Italy’s Alpine glaciers are now above zero degrees, Italy’s news agency Ansa reported, citing Claudio Tei, researcher and meteorologist at Italy’s National Research Council.

About 65 patients had to be transfered to a ship in the port of Alexandroupolis as the blaze approached the hospital. So far there are no reports of damage to the facility, but the ship is leaving for the port of Kavala so that patients can go to the hospital there. 

The fire has also spread into Dadia forest despite efforts to try to control it, while another broke out Tuesday in Aspropirgos, a suburb northwest of Athens, with authorities ordering the evacuation in three areas.

“The next 48 hours, are proving to be extremely critical with gusty winds and high temperatures creating widespread fire fronts as outbreaks cannot be easily brought under control,” Civil Protection minister Vasilis Kikilias said. 

Other fires across the country that started on Monday are still burning. Blazes in Viotia, Evia, Kavala and Rodopi have destroyed forests and homes, while two firefighters were hospitalized. 

The situation is expected to remain difficult as temperatures of 40C (104F) are forecast for Tuesday and the wind will remain strong for another day. The Athens region, Viotia, Evia and other three areas are under “extreme” high alert status for fire and authorities have banned access to forests and mountains until Wednesday morning. 

In Portugal, more than 200 fire fighters are battling two blazes in the north, according to the National Authority for Emergency and Civil Protection. On Tuesday and Wednesday, maximum temperatures are forecast between about 37C and 42C in most of the country, and may reach 45C inland, according to the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere.

Elsewhere, temperatures in Madrid will be 6.4C hotter than normal on Wednesday, according to Maxar. The current heat wave is set to end after the weekend, with cooler-than-normal-temperatures seen in cities from Berlin to Paris and Stockholm next week. 

–With assistance from Alberto Brambilla and Joao Lima.

(updates with fires in Portugal in 12th paragraph.)

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