ATHENS: The vast heatwave covering swathes of Europe moved steadily eastwards yesterday, forcing countries including Italy, Poland and Slovenia to issue their highest heatwave alerts as firemen battled wildfires across the continent.
Since temperatures in southern Europe began to soar earlier this month, the heatwave has caused hundreds of deaths and sparked wildfires that have burned tens of thousands of hectares of land in countries including Spain, Portugal and France. Britain and France both saw record high temperatures on Tuesday.
The extreme heatwave is part of a global pattern of rising temperatures, widely attributed by scientists and climatologists to climate change caused by human activity. It is forecast to dump searing heat on much of China into late August.
Greece, which contained a huge wildfire that raged near Athens for two days and was fanned by high winds, urged Europe to do more to tackle climate change.
“The climate crisis is now evident across Europe, with particular intensity in the wider Mediterranean region. The cocktail of high temperatures, gusty winds and heavy drought inevitably leads to wildfires,” government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said.
“Europe must act in a coordinated and rapid manner to reverse the climate crisis,” Oikonomou told reporters. “The solution cannot be given at a national level, because the problem is transnational and huge.”
Greek firemen had tackled 390 forest fires in one week, about 50-70 blazes a day, he said. According to the meteorological station in Penteli outside Athens, where the fire broke out on Tuesday, winds reached 113kmph at one point.
In Poland, the authorities issued heat warnings for many parts of the country, with temperatures as high as 36.7C measured in the western town of Kornik. In the northern port city of Gdansk, many residents and tourists headed for local beaches to cool down.