Wildfires have ravaged many campsites in the French department of Gironde.
Weighed down by extreme heat and wildfires of a rare scale, the France and Spain noted on Thursday a marked improvement in the situation in terms of fires.
In the French department of Gironde, located in the south-west, the two fires which have destroyed 20,800 hectares for 10 days have not progressed overnight, have local authorities said Thursday morning.
On Wednesday, the approximately 2,000 firefighters engaged had succeeded in preventing the spread of the fires thanks to lower temperatures and more humid air.
The prefecture had nevertheless warned that nearly 36,750 people evacuees could not yet return to their homes.
A camping area devastated by the fires raging in Gironde, at the foot of the Dune du Pilat.
In northeastern Spain, the evolution of the Ateca fire has been positive in recent hours, the regional government said on Twitter, which said new starts were immediately extinguished.
This fire, which broke out on Monday, covers an area of 14,000 hectares and led to the evacuation of 1700 people.
The return of residents to the evacuated villages is getting closer and closer, but caution must be exercised, regional president Javier Lambán said.
The stretch of highway A2, linking Madrid to Barcelona, which had to be closed due to the flames, was reopened to traffic on Thursday morning, according to regional authorities in Aragon.
The fire in the province of Zamora in the northwest, one of the worst in recent days and which resulted in the death of a firefighter and a shepherd, was under control and remained quiet and without flames, said the region of Castile and Leon.
Spain has been swept in recent days by a wave of fires devastating, favored by the heat wave which lasted from July 9 to 18 and which could be the most extreme ever recorded in the country, according to the national meteorological agency (AEMET).
A Canadair CL-415 aircraft flies over an area scorched by fire near Avila, northwestern Spain.
On Wednesday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the heat wave had killed more than 500 people in the country.
After a short respite in temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday, Spain was expected to see the mercury rise again on Thursday: 41ºC were expected in Extremadura and 40ºC in Andalusia, while much of the territory remains on high alert.
The wildfires that have raged in Europe in recent weeks have already affected more area than in all of 2021, according to the monitoring service European specialist.
Since the beginning of the year, the fires have burned 517,881 hectares in the 27 countries of the European Union, or just over 5,000 km2 – the equivalent of the area of the islands of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean.
If the trend continues, 2022 could thus equal or exceed 2017, the worst year recorded in the EU since the creation of the European Information System on forest fires (EFFIS), in 2000.
That year, 988,087 hectares of vegetation had gone up in smoke, nearly 10,000 km2, or the approximate area of Lebanon.
The situation is even worse than expected, even if we expected temperature anomalies thanks to long-term [weather] forecasts, explains to AFP Jesus San Miguel, coordinator of EFFIS.
“The heat wave is decisive and clearly linked to global warming. »
— Jesus San Miguel, European Forest Fire Information System Coordinator
We knew it was going to be a rough summer and we expect it to continue, we're not even halfway through the fire season,” says San Miguel. Previously, the season was concentrated from July to September, now we have longer seasons and very intense fires.
Nearly 40,000 hectares have burned in France since the beginning of the #x27;year, compared to just over 30,000 for the whole of 2021. In Spain, nearly 190,000 hectares have been lost, compared to almost 85,000 in 2021.
Even countries unaccustomed to forest fires, such as Great Britain where the temperature exceeded 40°C for the first time this week, see the affected surfaces evaporate: just over 20 000 hectares have burned there since the start of the year, compared to just over 6,000 in 2021, according to EFFIS.
With information from Agence France-Presse