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Fires force Germany, Greece, Spain evacuations

June 19, 2022

Europe continues to struggle with a heat wave, though some have seen a respite from record high temperatures for the time of year. One of several wildfires has raged out of control on Greece's second-largest island.

A police water canon truck is used against the wildfire in Treuenbrietzen, near Berlin on June 19, 2022
A police water canon truck was used on the wildfire in Treuenbrietzen, near BerlinImage: Thomas Schulz/TNN/dpa/picture alliance

High early summer temperatures and stronger winds reached the eastern states of Germany on Sunday, fanning a wildfire in an area southwest of the capital, Berlin.

The country's national weather agency said the mercury topped 38 Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit) at some measuring stations in the east after reaching similar temperatures in the west of the country a day earlier.

Residents of about 20 villages were ordered to evacuate as a forest fire, that has been burning since Friday, approached their homes. Others were told to prepare to leave in the next few hours.

Earlier, a fire brigade spokesperson said the wildfire's area had spread to "around 100 to 110 hectares," about 70 kilometers (43 miles) from Berlin.

A military helicopter was deployed to help in the firefighting operation.

Emergency teams have so far managed to prevent the flames from crossing a major road, the B102, which has been closed to traffic.

The local town hall in Treuenbrietzen in the state of Brandenburg is serving as an emergency shelter for those being evacuated.

Germany has seen numerous wildfires in recent days following a period of intense heat and little rain.

However, forecasters said thunderstorms would likely bring cooler weather in from the west by Sunday evening.

Greek island hit by fire

Also on Sunday, a wildfire continued to rage out of control in central Evia, Greece's second-largest island.

Fanned by strong winds, the blaze spread across the slopes of a mountainous forest in Gaia.

Authorities ordered the evacuation of the village of Kremastos as a precaution as the blaze got as close as 800 meters (roughly 2,600 feet) from some homes.

About 70 firefighters were battling the blaze on the ground, assisted by nine fire dousing planes and four helicopters.

Evia suffered devastating forest fires last summer that destroyed about a third of its forest cover.

A plane drops water onto wildfire near Artesa de Segre, Spain, June 16, 2022
Authorities in Spain have fought several wildfires as a result of dry conditions and record high temperatures for JuneImage: Albert Gea/REUTERS

Meanwhile, firefighters in Spain struggled to contain wildfires that have raged for several days as a result of the heat wave that brought record temperatures for June.

Thermometers have risen above 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in many Spanish cities this week — temperatures more typically seen in August.

The worst damage has been in the northwestern province of Zamora, where over 25,000 hectares (61,000 acres) of land have been scorched, regional authorities said.,

The fire was started by a strike from an electrical storm on Wednesday, although a lack of rainfall and gusting winds created the conditions for the blaze to thrive.

Temperature drops across Spain

Spanish authorities said temperatures dropped on Sunday morning, giving some respite to the 650 emergency workers battling the burning vegetation.

Supported by water-dumping aircraft, they were able to establish a perimeter around the fire that started in Zamora's Sierra de la Culebra, while 18 villages have been evacuated.

Wildfires were also active in three parts of northeastern Catalonia: in Lleida, in Tarragona and in a nature park in Garraf, just south of Barcelona.

Firefighters said they have responded to over 200 different wildfires just in Catalonia over the past week.

Firefighters battle blazes in northern Spain

Experts have warned the high temperatures were caused by worrying climate change trends

"What we're witnessing today is, unfortunately, a foretaste of the future," said Clare Nullis, a spokeswoman for the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva.

She said summers were likely to be hotter if concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continued to rise and push global warming toward 2 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels.

mm/msh (AFP, AP, dpa)

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