New wildfires in Greece as Europe braces for more heat

France_Wildfires_13972 This photo provided by the fire brigade of the Gironde region (SDIS 33) shows a water-bombing plane spreads water La Teste-de-Buch, southwestern France, Tuesday, July 19, 2022. In the Gironde region of southwest France, two massive fires feeding on tinder-dry pine forests also have forced tens of thousands of people to flee homes and summer vacation spots since they broke out July 12.
France_Wildfires_13458 This photo provided by the fire brigade of the Gironde region (SDIS 33) shows a burnt pine forests water near Landrias, southwestern France, Tuesday, July 19, 2022. In the Gironde region of southwest France, two massive fires feeding on tinder-dry pine forests also have forced tens of thousands of people to flee homes and summer vacation spots since they broke out July 12.
France_Wildfires_19113 This photo provided by the fire brigade of the Gironde region (SDIS 33) shows fire trucks make their way to the pine forests in Landrias, southwestern France, Tuesday, July 19, 2022. In the Gironde region of southwest France, two massive fires feeding on tinder-dry pine forests also have forced tens of thousands of people to flee homes and summer vacation spots since they broke out July 12.
APTOPIX_Spain_Wildfires_09565 People work to extinguish a fire as wildfires get close to a house in Tabara, north-west Spain, Tuesday, July 19, 2022. Wildfires also kept emergency crews busy in England, Germany, Portugal and Spain.
APTOPIX_Spain_Wildfires_99668 Alex Codonyer, 55, hugs his son Alan, 12, next to their house burnt during a wildfire in River Park village, near the town of El Pont de Vilomara, Spain, Tuesday, July 19, 2022. Hundreds of residents evacuated by a wildfire in Bages, in northeastern Spain were anxious to get back to their homes and assess the extent of the damage. Authorities in Catalonia deployed dozens of firefighting planes and helicopters to try and contain the spreading fire that ravaged several homes and burnt more than 1,600 hectares (3953 acres).
APTOPIX_Spain_Wildfires_47600 Jordi Villalta, 62, stands next to his house burnt during a wildfire in River Park village, near the town of El Pont de Vilomara, Spain, Tuesday, July 19, 2022. Hundreds of residents evacuated by a wildfire in Bages, in northeastern Spain were anxious to get back to their homes and assess the extent of the damage. Jordi could not even salvage his clothes before escaping the flames, "all I have is what I'm wearing, I've lost everything" Jordi said.
APTOPIX_Spain_Wildfires_79242 The skull of a goat lies on the ground after a forest fire on a farm in San Martin de Tabara, north-west Spain, Tuesday, July 19, 2022. Wildfires also kept emergency crews busy in England, Germany, Portugal and Spain.
Spain_Wildfires_57403 A charred structure after a wildfire near Tabara, north-west Spain, Tuesday, July 19, 2022. Wildfires also kept emergency crews busy in England, Germany, Portugal and Spain.
Spain_Wildfires_18809 A dead goat lies on the ground after a forest fire on a farm in San Martin de Tabara, north-west Spain, Tuesday, July 19, 2022. Wildfires also kept emergency crews busy in England, Germany, Portugal and Spain.
APTOPIX_Greece_Wildfires_11530 Fire burns next to houses in the area of Drafi east of Athens on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes late Tuesday as a wildfire threatened mountainside suburbs northeast of Athens. Firefighters battled through the night, struggling to contain the blaze which was being intensified by strong gusts of wind.
APTOPIX_Greece_Wildfires_43545 People look at the smoke from a fire in the area of Anthousa, about 30 kilometers, (18 miles) east of Athens on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes late Tuesday as a wildfire threatened mountainside suburbs northeast of Athens. Firefighters battled through the night, struggling to contain the blaze which was being intensified by strong gusts of wind.
CORRECTION_Greece_Wildfires_15441 CORRECTS AREA'S NAME - A man speaks on his mobile phone as he stands next of two burned cars in the area of Panorama Palinis, eastern Athens, Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes late Tuesday as a wildfire threatened mountainside suburbs northeast of Athens. Firefighters battled through the night, struggling to contain the blaze which was being intensified by strong gusts of wind.
France_Wirdfires_86663 French President Emmanuel Macron, center, meets firefighters at field command post in La Test-de-Buch, near Arcachon, southwestern France, Wednesday, July 20, 2022, while French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin looks on. In the Gironde region of southwest France, two massive fires feeding on tinder-dry pine forests also have forced tens of thousands of people to flee homes and summer vacation spots since they broke out July 12.
Greece_Wildfires_53381 A woman walks in front of smoke from a fire in the area of Drafi , east of Athens on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes late Tuesday as a wildfire threatened mountainside suburbs northeast of Athens. Firefighters battled through the night, struggling to contain the blaze which was being intensified by strong gusts of wind.
Greece_Wildfires_59326 A firefighting helicopter throws water as fire burns in the area of Drafi east of Athens on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes late Tuesday as a wildfire threatened mountainside suburbs northeast of Athens. Firefighters battled through the night, struggling to contain the blaze which was being intensified by strong gusts of wind.
Greece_Wildfires_50032 A firefighter uses a tree branch as he is trying to prevent the fire from reaching homes in the area of Drafi east of Athens ,on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes late Tuesday as a wildfire threatened mountainside suburbs northeast of Athens. Firefighters battled through the night, struggling to contain the blaze which was being intensified by strong gusts of wind.
France_Wirdfires_43076 A commander of the fire brigade, left, explains the situation to French President Emmanuel Macron, right, as he meets firefighters at field command post in La Test-de-Buch, near Arcachon, southwestern France, Wednesday, July 20, 2022. In the Gironde region of southwest France, two massive fires feeding on tinder-dry pine forests also have forced tens of thousands of people to flee homes and summer vacation spots since they broke out July 12.
A firefighting helicopter throws water as fire burns in the area of Drafi east of Athens on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes late Tuesday as a wildfire threatened mountainside suburbs northeast of Athens. Firefighters battled through the night, struggling to contain the blaze which was being intensified by strong gusts of wind.
Greece_Wildfires_59636 Residents spray water with a hose as fire burns near houses in the area of Drafi east of Athens on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes late Tuesday as a wildfire threatened mountainside suburbs northeast of Athens. Firefighters battled through the night, struggling to contain the blaze which was being intensified by strong gusts of wind.
France_Wirdfires_02954 French President Emmanuel Macron, center, meets firefighters at field command post in La Test-de-Buch, near Arcachon, southwestern France, Wednesday, July 20, 2022. In the Gironde region of southwest France, two massive fires feeding on tinder-dry pine forests also have forced tens of thousands of people to flee homes and summer vacation spots since they broke out July 12.
A firefighting airplane drops water in the area of Drafi east of Athens on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes late Tuesday as a wildfire threatened mountainside suburbs northeast of Athens. Firefighters battled through the night, struggling to contain the blaze which was being intensified by strong gusts of wind.
France_Wirdfires_02830 French President Emmanuel Macron, center, and French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, right, meets firefighters at field command post in La Test-de-Buch, near Arcachon, southwestern France, Wednesday, July 20, 2022. In the Gironde region of southwest France, two massive fires feeding on tinder-dry pine forests also have forced tens of thousands of people to flee homes and summer vacation spots since they broke out July 12.
Fire burns near houses in the area of Drafi east of Athens on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes late Tuesday as a wildfire threatened mountainside suburbs northeast of Athens. Firefighters battled through the night, struggling to contain the blaze which was being intensified by strong gusts of wind.
APTOPIX_France_Wirdfires_80431 Sandrune Carella, left, owner of the campsite Pyla who burned down in the forest fire hugs French President Emmanuel Macron as he visits La Test-de-Buch, near Arcachon, southwestern France, Wednesday, July 20, 2022. In the Gironde region of southwest France, two massive fires feeding on tinder-dry pine forests also have forced tens of thousands of people to flee homes and summer vacation spots since they broke out July 12.
France_Wirdfires_82089 French President Emmanuel Macron, right, meets firefighters at field command post in La Test-de-Buch, near Arcachon, southwestern France, Wednesday, July 20, 2022. In the Gironde region of southwest France, two massive fires feeding on tinder-dry pine forests also have forced tens of thousands of people to flee homes and summer vacation spots since they broke out July 12.
APTOPIX_Greece_Wildfires_21298 A firefighting Helicopter throws water in the area of Panorama Palinis, eastern Athens, on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Nearly 500 firefighters struggled to contain a large wildfire that threatened hillside suburbs outside Athens for a second day Wednesday, after hundreds of residents were evacuated overnight.
Greece_Wildfires_31160 Fire burns next to houses in the area of Drafi east of Athens,Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes late Tuesday as a wildfire threatened mountainside suburbs northeast of Athens.
Greece_Wildfires_32367 Fire burns next to houses in the area of Drafi east of Athens,Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes late Tuesday as a wildfire threatened mountainside suburbs northeast of Athens.
Greece_Wildfires_89526 A firefighting plane drops water in the area of Drafi east of Athens,Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes late Tuesday as a wildfire threatened mountainside suburbs northeast of Athens.
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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Battered by heavy winds, firefighters in Greece struggled to contain new fires Wednesday around the capital of Athens while other countries in southern Europe took stock of the damage caused during the latest severe heat wave and prepared for the return of scorching temperatures. Two new fires broke out west of Athens following a round-the-clock effort to halt a blaze in the outskirts of the city that had swept through inhabited areas and forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents. “Given the conditions created by climate change, we have new fires expanding,” Greece’s Civil Protection and Climate Change Minister Christos Stylianides said. “The conditions we are operating under are extremely adverse. Wind gusts have exceeded 110 kilometers per hour (68 mph) in some areas.” Fires were burning across southern Europe on Wednesday, but authorities in France, Spain and Portugal all reported improved conditions with a respite from the severe heat. French President Emmanuel Macron visited the country’s worst-hit Gironde region, in the southwest, meeting with firefighters who have been battling the flames for a week. French firefighters created huge firebreaks through threatened forests, using heavy machinery to tear out trees and roots, leaving large barren strips to stop the fires.

“You have saved lives,” Macron said, shaking hands with a group of firefighters lined up at the regional fire department.

The leader of the Gironde fire brigade, Marc Vermeulen, briefed the president on their formidable efforts to contain the blaze.

“We have never seen anything like this before,” he said, noting that 20-year-old pine trees were “exploding in the extreme heat.”

Greece has avoided the heat wave that hit countries in western Europe, including the U.K., this week, but fire officials say this summer’s hot and dry conditions, which have lasted for weeks, as well as longer-term temperature increases have increased the overall risk of forest fires. At least two people were hospitalized in the Greek capital with breathing problems and minor burns. Helicopters scooped up water pumped into outdoor tanks near homes on hillside suburbs before flying back into thick smoke to make the water drops.

Cooler weather gave firefighters in Spain and Portugal some respite but temperatures are forecast to rise back to 40 degrees Celsius (104 F) in the coming days.

Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, said more frequent and more extreme heat waves were an inevitable consequence of climate change. “In the future, these kinds of heat waves are going to be normal. We will see stronger extremes. We have pumped so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that the negative trend will continue for decades,” Taalas said. “I hope that this will be a wake-up call for governments.” The European Union’s 27 nations have been pooling resources this summer to cope with the scale of the fires. European Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarcic was in Slovenia, where an Italian water-dropping plane and a helicopter from Austria have joined army and firefighters struggling to contain a fire in the Kras area which has rapidly spread over from neighboring Italy. On the Italian side, homes were evacuated and part of a major highway was closed. Dry vegetation was helping to fuel the flames as northern Italy’s worst drought in decades drags on. Another fire burned in Tuscany, in the province of Lucca, Italian state radio said. In Spain, a spate of blazes in Spain’s northwestern Galicia region has burned 85 houses and forced the evacuation of 1,400 people. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez visited the area late Tuesday and warned of “hard days ahead here in Galicia and the rest of Spain.”

Portugal’s health ministry says between July 7-18 the country’s excess mortality rate was 1,065 deaths, with officials blaming the heat wave for the spike and saying more heat deaths are likely in coming days as high temperatures return.

___ Surk reported from Nice, France. Lefteris Pitarakis in Drafi, Greece; Raquel Redondo in Madrid; Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Portugal; John Leicester in Paris, Jovana Gec in Belgrade and Frances D’Emilio in Rome contributed.

___

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