Spain and Germany battle to contain wildfires amid heatwave

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Firefighters in Spain and Germany struggled to contain wildfires on Sunday amid an unusual heat wave in Western Europe for this time of year.

The worst damage in Spain occurred in the northwestern province of Zamora, where more than 25,000 hectares (61,000 acres) were consumed, regional authorities said, while German officials said residents of three villages near Berlin had been ordered to leave their homes due to an approach. Sunday forest fire.

Spanish authorities said after three days of high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity, some respite came with a drop in temperatures on Sunday morning. This allowed around 650 firefighters supported by water-dropping planes to establish a perimeter around the blaze that broke out in the Sierra de la Culebra de Zamora. Authorities have warned there is still a danger that unfavorable climate change could reignite the blaze that prompted the evacuation of 18 villages.

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Spain is on high alert for an outbreak of intense wildfires as the country swelters in record temperatures in many parts of the country in June. Experts link the abnormally hot period for Europe to climate change. Thermometers topped 40C (104F) in many Spanish cities throughout the week – temperatures usually expected in August.

A lack of precipitation this year combined with gusty winds have created the conditions for the fires.

Authorities said winds of up to 70 km/h (43 mph) that changed course erratically, combined with temperatures close to 40C, made it very difficult for crews.

“The fire was able to cross a reservoir about 500 meters wide and reach the other side, to give you an idea of ​​the difficulties we faced,” said Juan Suárez-Quiñones, an official in the Castilla region. y León, on Spanish public television TVE.

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The Zamora fire was sparked by a strike from an electrical storm on Wednesday, authorities said. The spreading fire caused the high-speed train service between Madrid and northwestern Spain to be cut off on Saturday. He was reinstated on Sunday morning.

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

No fatalities were reported, but the flames reached the outskirts of some villages in Zamora and Navarre. Videos shot by passengers in cars showed flames licking the sides of the roads. In other villages, residents watched in despair as black plumes rose from nearby hills.

In north-central Navarre, authorities have evacuated about 15 small villages as a precaution, as high temperatures in the region are not expected to drop until Wednesday.

They also asked farmers to stop using heavy machinery that could unintentionally start a fire.

“The situation remains delicate. We have several active fires due to extremely high temperatures and high winds,” Navarre Regional Vice President Javier Remírez told TVE.

Remírez said some villages had seen damaged buildings on their outskirts.

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

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

Firefighters said 2,700 hectares (6,600 acres) had been burned in Lleida. They added that they had responded to more than 200 different wildfires in Catalonia alone over the past week.

In Germany, high winds fanned the blaze about 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of Berlin, prompting authorities to declare an emergency on Saturday.

Villagers from Frohnsdorf, Tiefenbrunnen and Klausdorf were told to take refuge immediately in a community center in the nearby town of Treuenbrietzen.

“This is not a drill,” 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 agency said the mercury rose above 38C (100.4F) at a measuring station in the east on Sunday.

The thunderstorms were expected to bring cooler weather from the west starting in the evening.

Frank Jordans contributed to this report from Berlin.

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