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CatastropheSpain

WHO says heat-related deaths top 1,700 in Spain, Portugal

July 22, 2022

Record temperatures across Europe have claimed many lives in Spain and Portugal alone, the UN health agency said. Wildfires in the two countries and parts of Europe only worsened matters.

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A man cools off in a public shower at a beach during a hot, sunny day in Barcelona, Spain
Temperatures remain above 40 degrees Celsius in SpainImage: Francisco Seco/AP Photo/picture alliance

An extreme heat wave that brought record temperatures to parts of Europe has caused over 1,700 deaths on the Iberian peninsula alone, the World Health Organization's European office said on Friday.

"This year, we have already witnessed more than 1,700 needless deaths in the present heat wave in Spain and Portugal alone," WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge said in a statement.

The WHO believes the figure would "increase further over the coming days."

A street sweeper man cools off with water at a fountain in Ronda in Spain.
Outdoor workers are at risk during the heatwave gripping EuropeImage: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

In Spain, the heat wave is predicted to end on Monday but temperatures remain above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in large parts of the country.

In Portugal, temperatures reached 45 degrees Celsius on July 13 in the city of Leiria.

Spain records worst year for forest fires

The WHO said wildfires in the two countries and parts of Europe only worsened matters.

"Climate change is not new. Its consequences, however, are mounting season after season, year after year, with disastrous outcomes," Kluge said.

A volunteer uses a tree branch trying to prevent a forest fire from reaching houses in the village of Casal da Quinta in Portugal
People have died as a result of extreme heat during extended heatwaves, often with simultaneous wildfiresImage: Joao Henriques/AP Photo/picture alliance

Spanish media reported that Spain has had the worst year for forest fires since records began.

In the first seven months of this year, flames destroyed more than 197,000 hectares of forest.

This is already more than in the entire previous record year, 2012, when forest fires destroyed 189,376 hectares in Spain.

Firefighters work at the site of a wildfire outside Tabara, Zamora, on the second heatwave of the year, in Spain
More than a dozen wildfires continued to ravage parts of SpainImage: Isabel Infantes/REUTERS

Meanwhile, in Italy, the fire brigade said it had been called out much more often for forest and bush fires so far this summer than last year.

Between June 15 and July 21, more than 32,900 operations were counted nationwide, about 4,000 more than in the same period last year, the fire brigade said.

lo/sri (AFP, dpa)