On Friday, firefighters from around Europe rushed to France’s aid to combat a large wildfire, while fires raged in Portugal and parts of England suffered severe drought, as successive heatwaves heightened awareness of climate change concerns.

Much of Europe has been subjected to weeks of blistering temperatures, which have decreased water levels in Germany’s Rhine River and caused the source of Britain’s River Thames to dry up further downstream than in recent years.

High temperatures and a deteriorating drought posed a high possibility of fresh flames igniting in Gironde, in southwestern France, according to local officials, even after an overnight respite kept a wildfire that had been blazing for days, charred thousands of hectares, and displaced 10,000 people in check.

Firefighters from Germany, Romania, Greece, and other countries were on the ground to assist France in battling the fire in the Bordeaux wine region, as well as on other fronts, including Brittany in the northwest.

“It doesn’t matter the country, we are firefighters and we are there to help,” said Cristian Buhaianu, head Romanian firefighter in Gironde to Reuters.

However, while the end of France’s third heatwave is forecast on Sunday, the fire has already left a trail of devastation, including nearly 7,400 hectares (18,286 acres) of woodland burned to the ground – an area the size of a major French city such as Nice.

DROUGHT IN THE UK, PORTUGAL FIRES

A massive wildfire raged into its seventh day in central Portugal, with 1,600 firemen backed up by 13 waterbombing aircraft, including one brought from Spain, battling the inferno that has devastated nearly 15% of the Serra da Estrela national park.

The fire began in the Covilha area on Saturday and has spread to many neighboring districts, consuming over 15,000 hectares in total.

Meanwhile, water levels on the Rhine in Germany have dropped again, making some vessels unable to sail, according to maritime operators and brokers.

The heatwave was also wreaking havoc in Britain, with the government formally declaring drought in portions of southern, central, and eastern England following a lengthy spell of hot and dry weather.

England had the driest July since 1935, with only 35% of the usual monthly rainfall, and areas of England and Wales were now under a four-day “extreme heat” warning. 

“All water companies have reassured us that essential supplies are still safe, and we have made it clear it is their duty to maintain those supplies,” Water Minister Steve Double said during a National Drought Group meeting.

Companies will now begin implementing pre-agreed drought strategies to help safeguard supplies, and the government has urged residents and businesses in drought-affected areas to use water responsibly.

Yorkshire Water stated earlier on Friday that a hosepipe restriction would go into effect on August 26, prohibiting customers from using hoses to water gardens, wash cars, or fill paddling pools.

Water use is restricted throughout France, and water police have been issuing fines. Outdoor jacuzzis were vandalized in the tourist Vosges region, according to local media, as tensions over water grew.

Source: Reuters

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