Hundreds of firefighters are battling a fire that has been raging for four days in southwest Portugal, which, like its Spanish neighbor, is experiencing an intense heatwave that has put most of the Iberian Peninsula on alert. At the same time, Scandinavia in northern Europe is experiencing floods and landslides after heavy rains in recent days.
Nearly 900 firefighters supported by ten aircraft are mobilized on Tuesday, August 8 in Odemira, near the tourist region of the Algarve, Portugal, where several thousand hectares have burned in recent days, according to initial estimates.
During the night from Monday to Tuesday, they “stabilized the perimeter” but “two critical points” will require “a lot of effort,” explained the commander of the Portuguese civil protection, José Ribeiro, during a press briefing.
Inland, residents of about twenty villages and vacationers staying in rural tourism establishments had to be evacuated on Monday. Many of them were accommodated in a school transformed into a reception center. In total, nearly 1,500 people have been displaced since Saturday, while around forty, including 28 firefighters, have been taken care of by emergency medical services, according to civil protection.
Another major fire in the Leiria region in central Portugal calmed down overnight from Monday to Tuesday after ravaging about 7,000 hectares. In total, nearly 2,800 firefighters and 16 aircraft were mobilized on Tuesday morning across the Portuguese territory.
Still 40 °C in some places
The temperatures are expected to slightly decrease on Tuesday but still reach 40 °C in some places, after setting a record for 2023 (46.4 °C) on Monday in Santarem, in the center, according to an initial estimate from the Portuguese meteorological agency.
The alert state is maintained on both sides of the border, with southwestern Spain on orange alert on Tuesday, including the province of Cordoba in Andalusia on red alert, indicating extreme danger, announced the Spanish meteorological agency (Aemet). Temperatures in Spain are expected to reach 44 °C on Tuesday and especially Wednesday, the day when this heatwave, the third of the summer, will be at its maximum, emphasized Aemet.
During the past weekend, over 1,000 hectares also burned in Spain. A fourth large-scale fire broke out on Monday afternoon in Extremadura, a region neighboring Portugal, in the town of Valencia de Alcantara, without firefighters being able to bring it under control overnight.
The Iberian Peninsula is at the forefront of the climate change in Europe, with a proliferation of heatwaves, droughts, and fires. Nearly 100,000 hectares have already gone up in smoke in 2023 in Spain and Portugal, according to provisional figures, compared to over 400,000 in total in 2022.
Scandinavia under water
At the same time, heavy rains have caused flooding and landslides in Sweden and Norway on Tuesday, while strong winds made a forest fire uncontrollable in Denmark, authorities said.
A storm named “Hans” swept through the Nordic countries over the weekend. Residents of the Are ski resort in northwest Sweden were advised to stay away from the Susabacken torrent, which overflowed, causing damage to roads and houses, according to the Swedish crisis information website, Krisinformation.
Two passenger train carriages derailed on Monday in eastern Sweden after a railway embankment collapsed, injuring three people. In Norway, police reported several landslides on Tuesday and the media reported that about a hundred people had to be evacuated.
The Swedish and Norwegian meteorological agencies issued flood warnings in several regions of their respective countries. These weather conditions also caused disruptions to transportation, with many roads closed and trains and ferries canceled.
The Danish meteorological agency DMI warned of storm winds in the northern part of the country. Danish police stated in a press release that the efforts of the rescue services to extinguish a forest fire near the town of Klitmoller were “hindered” by the strong winds.