Hundreds more people were evacuated from their homes on Friday as wildfires scorched territory in France, Spain, and Portugal, while authorities in Europe issued heat-related health advisories for the coming days.

More than 1,000 firemen, aided by water-bomber aircraft, have been battling two blazes in southern France since Tuesday, which have been fueled by blistering heat, tinder-box conditions, and high winds.

While temperatures in Portugal have dropped somewhat, they are still projected to reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in certain areas, with five districts on red alert for severe weather and more than 1,000 firefighters battling 13 wildfires, according to officials.

In Spain, the Environment Ministry said it was assisting in the suppression of 17 wildfires throughout the nation.

Officials are concerned about the consequences on people’s health and healthcare systems already stressed by the COVID-19 epidemic as the continent’s blistering heat hits, with warnings given for worse to come in the United Kingdom in particular.

The World Meteorological Organization warned on Friday that the heatwave will trap pollutants in the atmosphere, deteriorating air quality, particularly in towns and cities.

“The stable and stagnant atmosphere acts as a lid to trap atmospheric pollutants, including particulate matter,” WMO scientific officer Lorenzo Labrador said during a news conference in Geneva.

“These result in a degradation of air quality and adverse health effects, particularly for vulnerable people.”

The country’s DGS health authority reported 238 additional fatalities owing to the heatwave from July 7 to July 13.

“In this specific case, the excess can be attributed to the heatwave. In the last few days we have had very high, extreme temperatures … and for a very long period,” DGS chief Graça Freitas told Lusa news agency.

Health Minister Marta Temido stated on Thursday that the heatwave had made the health system “particularly worrying” and that certain hospitals were overcrowded.

Source: Reuters

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