France grapples with early heat wave, Spain grapples with wildfires


French authorities warned Thursday that a record pre-summer heat wave was progressing north from Spain, where firefighters are battling several wildfires, on the sixth day of sweltering temperatures.

The Météo France meteorological service warned that this is the earliest heat wave since 2005, exacerbating the drought caused by an unusually dry winter and spring.

High temperatures also aggravate the risk of forest fires, such as those registered in Spain, which has already experienced the hottest month of May since the beginning of this century.

Spain is now facing temperatures of up to 43 degrees Celsius with no relief expected before Sunday, according to weather service Aemet.

At least three fires broke out in Catalonia (northeastern Spain). The most worrying in Baldomar, where the fire burned 500 hectares and can reach 20,000, according to the regional government.

At the moment there are no people evacuated in this area of ​​the province of Lérida, but the authorities confined some nearby populated areas as a precautionary measure.

In neighboring Portugal, last month was the hottest May since 1931. Most scientists attribute this to global warming caused by greenhouse gases.

The heat crossed the Pyrenees into southern France on Tuesday and is expected to hit most of the country by Saturday, when thermometers could reach 38 degrees in Paris.

Authorities warned of the increased risk of fires in the forests surrounding the capital and Paris and other areas issued alerts for smog, produced by intense sunlight.

“I’m 86 years old and I was born here. But I think it’s the worst heat wave I’ve ever seen,” Jacqueline Bonnaud told AFP in a park in the city of Toulouse (south).

The increased use of air conditioning and fans forced France to import electricity from neighboring countries, operator RTE said on Thursday, when many nuclear reactors are out of service due to corrosion problems or maintenance.

The intense heat also reduced the flow of the rivers, for which some nuclear power plants have to reduce production because the water used for cooling the reactors is too hot to be returned to the water courses without endangering the flora and fauna. fauna.

Spain, Italy and other countries have recently limited the use of air conditioners to save energy and the French minister of the branch, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, told the France 2 network that she was studying a similar measure.

Météo France issued heat wave alerts on Thursday in the southern half of the country and in the west, and advanced that more departments will be affected in the coming days.

“Saturday will be the high point, with temperatures of 35 to 39 degrees in most parts of the country,” said Tristan Amm of the weather agency.

The heat wave affects everyday life. The schools were supplied with water and, in the south, some will cancel classes on Friday.

The SNCF railway company has warned of possible delays as trains are forced to slow down as heat warps tracks and damages electrical equipment.

“Our infrastructure suffers” from the heat, said SNCF regional director Thierry Rose, noting that temperatures at track level in Bordeaux (southwest) reached 52 degrees on Wednesday.