Ruined landscapes in Europe after the fires

The situation is clearly improving Thursday on the fire front in France, Portugal and Spain, with a major fire about to be brought under control in the northeast. In France, the fires that destroyed 20,800 hectares of forest in the Gironde (southwest) for 10 days and led to the evacuation of more than 36,000 people did not progress overnight, and firefighters are still dealing with a few outbreaks of fires, local authorities said Thursday morning.

The nearly 2,000 firefighters who battled, on Wednesday, managed to prevent the fires from developing thanks to more favorable weather, with lower temperatures and more humid air. However, the prefecture warned that nearly 36,750 evacuees have not yet been able to return to their homes.

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To read: Summer in Hell. From the Gironde to Provence, France is on fire

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The regional government said on Twitter that the development of the Attica fire in Aragon (northeast of the country) in Spain “was positive in the last hours”. The fire, which broke out on Monday, covers an area of ​​14,000 hectares and has led to the evacuation of 1,700 people. “The return of residents to the evacuated villages is getting closer and closer, but we have to be careful,” said regional president Javier Lampan.

The part of the A2 motorway, linking Madrid to Barcelona, ​​which had to be cut due to the fire, reopened to traffic Thursday morning, according to the Aragonese authorities. And the region of Castilla – and León – indicated that the fire that broke out in the province of Zamora (northwest), which killed a firefighter and a shepherd on Sunday and Monday, was brought under control and remained “quiet and free of flames.”

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A devastating wave of fires has engulfed the Iberian Peninsula in recent days, favored by a heat wave that lasted from July 9-18. This heat wave may be the most extreme on record in Spain, according to provisional data from the Spanish Meteorological Agency (Aemet).

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said that since the beginning of the year, nearly 70,000 hectares of land have been reduced to ash in the country, “virtually twice the average of the past 10 years” for the same period. Portugal, where smoke has been emitted from more than 57,000 hectares since the start of the year, saw a lull on Thursday.

“We have passed the most important stage,” Interior Minister Jose Luis Carneiro told public television, RTP. “Everything seems to point to an improvement in the coming days,” he added.

According to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), which measures it differently from satellite observations, 2022 has already become the worst year since the start of the statistical series in 2000, with 194,704 hectares charred by 319 fires.

After a brief respite in temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday, Spain is expected to see mercury rise again on Thursday, while most territories remain on alert, according to Emmett.

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