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Drought in England, flames in France

Firefighters across Europe came to the rescue of France on Friday fighting a massive wildfire, while Portugal also raged and parts of England suffered severe drought as persistent heatwaves drew attention to climate change risks. focused.

Much of Europe has suffered weeks of baking temperatures, which have also lowered the water level of the Rhine River in Germany and seen the source of Britain’s Thames drier downstream than in years .

High temperatures and a worsening drought brought a high risk of new fires to Gironde in southwestern France, local officials said, even as investigations into wildfires that have been burning for days are underway. Even after that, thousands of hectares were burnt and 10,000 were displaced. People.

Firefighters from Germany, Romania, Greece and beyond were in the fray to help France fight fires in the region – the home of Bordeaux wine – as well as on other fronts, including Brittany in the northwest.

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“It doesn’t matter to the country, we are the firefighters and we are there to help,” said Cristian Buhainu, the chief Romanian firefighter in Gironde.

Farmers and firefighters work to control a fire in Saint-Magne as wildfires spread through the Gironde region of southwestern France [Stephane Mahe/Reuters]

French Commandant Stephanie Martin welcomed their support in an area that had been battling raging fires for weeks last month. “Our firefighters are exhausted after a month of fighting. This is really good support for us, so we can focus on the second operation as well,” she said.

But while there may be some respite from the expected end of France’s third heatwave on Sunday, fires have already wreaked havoc, burning more than 7,400 hectares (18,286 acres) of forest to the ground – the size of a large French cities like Nice.

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What firefighters called a “monster fire” also destroyed homes in the center of Gironde, including the ancestral home of the family of Juliette Pilan, a 19-year-old student of Bellin-Belliet.

“It’s complicated to process this news. It’s a house that’s been in the family for years, it’s especially painful for my grandparents,” Pillain told Reuters news agency.

“We had all my grandparents’ furniture, my grandmother’s books and encyclopedias… we cried a lot but then thought it was just material damage and we’re all still here.”

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Fire in Portugal, drought in Britain

In central Portugal, a massive wildfire hit its seventh day, with 1600 firefighters supported by 13 waterbombing aircraft, including one sent from Spain, fighting the fire, which hit about 15 of the Serra da Estrela National Park. Percentage destroyed.

After starting in the Kovilha area on Saturday, the fire spread to several neighboring councils, burning around 15,000 hectares in total.

Meanwhile, water levels on the Rhine River in Germany have dropped again, with some ships no longer able to sail, shipping operators and brokers said.

Further north, in the United Kingdom, heatwaves were also hit hard, with the government formally declaring parts of southern, central and eastern England dry after a long period of hot and dry weather.

England suffered the driest July since 1935, with only 35 percent of the average rainfall for the month, and parts of England and Wales were now in the midst of a four-day “extreme heat” warning.

“All water companies have reassured us that essential supplies are still safe, and we have made it clear that it is their duty to maintain those supplies,” Water Minister Steve Double said after a meeting of the National Drought Group.

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Companies will now begin implementing pre-agreed drought plans to help protect supplies, and the government said members of the public and businesses in drought-affected areas were urged to use water wisely.

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Earlier on Friday, Yorkshire Water announced a ban on hosepipes from 26 August, forbidding customers from using hoses in water gardens, washing cars or filling paddling pools.

Satellite images from July released by NASA showed dry-brown areas stretching as far as southern England and the northeastern coast.

Critics have pointed to the billions of liters lost daily by private water firms, whose top management is paid millions of pounds annually and who regularly pay dividends to shareholders.

The National Climate Information Center said such high temperatures in Britain were only possible due to human-induced climate change.

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Throughout France, too, the use of water is banned, and the water police are levying fines. Local media have reported that the outdoor Jacuzzi in the tourist Vosges area was vandalized, as some tensions over water had risen.

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