Spain, Germany fight wildfires amid unusual heat wave in Europe | Climate news

Experts have linked the abnormally hot period in parts of Europe to climate change with high temperatures and little rainfall.

Firefighters in Spain and Germany struggle to control wildfires during a heat wave in Western Europe, unusual for this time of year.

The worst damage in Spain is in the northwestern province of Zamora, where more than 25,000 hectares (61,000 acres) have been destroyed by flames, regional authorities said on Sunday. German officials said residents of three villages near Berlin were ordered to vacate their homes on Sunday due to an approaching forest fire.

Experts have linked this abnormally hot period for Europe to climate change.

Mercury rose above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in many Spanish cities throughout the week — temperatures normally expected in August.

A lack of rain this year, combined with gusty winds, has also set the conditions for the fires.

After three days of high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity, some reprieve came Sunday with temperatures dropping that allowed about 650 firefighters, supported by water-dumping aircraft, to establish a perimeter around the blaze that started in Zamora’s Sierra de la Culebra.

Authorities warned there was still a danger that an adverse weather change could revive the fire that has already caused the evacuation of 18 villages.

Authorities said wind gusts up to 70 km/h that changed course erratically, combined with temperatures around 40C, made it very difficult for firefighters to fight the blazes.

“The fire was able to cross a reservoir of about 500 meters [1,640 feet] wide and reach the other side, to give you an idea of ​​the difficulties we faced,” Juan Suárez-Quiñones, an official for the Castilla y León region, told Spanish state television TVE.

An electrical storm started the fire in Zamora on Wednesday, authorities said. The spreading fire interrupted high-speed train service from Madrid to northwestern Spain on Saturday. It was picked up again on Sunday morning.

Spanish military firefighting units have been deployed in Zamora, Navarra and Lleida.

There are no reports of loss of life, but authorities have evacuated some 15 small villages in central northern Navarre as a precaution. High temperatures in the area are not expected to drop until Wednesday.

“The situation remains delicate. We have several active fires due to the extremely high temperatures and high winds,” Javier Remírez, regional vice president of Navarra, told TVE.

Some wild animals had to be evacuated from an animal park in Navarra and taken to an arena for safekeeping, authorities said.

There were also forest fires in three parts of northeastern Catalonia: in Lleida, in Tarragona and in a natural park in Garaf, just south of Barcelona.

In Germany, strong winds fanned a blaze about 50 km (31 miles) southwest of Berlin, prompting officials to declare a state of emergency on Saturday.

Villagers in Frohnsdorf, Tiefenbrunnen and Klausdorf were told to immediately seek shelter at a community center in the nearby town of Treuenbrietzen.

“This is not an exercise,” city officials tweeted.

Germany has experienced numerous forest fires in recent days after a period of intense heat and little rain.

The country’s national weather bureau said the mercury reached 38°C at some monitoring stations in the east on Sunday.

Cooler weather was predicted to arrive from the west from the evening.

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