By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent
PARIS/LONDON (Worthy News) – European nations rushed to save France as miles of parched forest were reduced to smoldering ashes by spreading wildfires amid record drought and heatwaves across Europe.
On Friday, wildfires continued to spread in the Gironde region of southwestern France after similar blazes in Portugal. More than 1,000 deaths have been attributed to the heat in Portugal and Spain alone. But across Europe, that death toll is believed to be even higher with France facing massive human suffering.
“Since June, our country has been facing exceptional fires,” said French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne while visiting the area where thousands were evacuated.
Firefighters from Germany, Romania, Greece, and beyond were on the ground to help France battle the fire in the region – home to Bordeaux wine. Wildfires also raged on other fronts, including in Brittany in the northwest, authorities said.
France wasn’t the only nation suffering from baking temperatures, which also depleted water levels of the Rhine River in Germany. Additionally, Britain’s River Thames was drying up further downstream than in previous years, officials added.
Further north, in Britain, the heatwave also hit hard, with the government declaring parts of southern, central, and eastern England in drought after a long period of hot and dry weather.
England suffered its driest July since 1935, with only 35 percent of the average rainfall for the month, experts said. Parts of England and Wales were now in the middle of a four-day “extreme heat” alert.
“All water companies have reassured us that essential supplies are still safe. And we have made it clear it is their duty to maintain those supplies,” Water Minister Steve Double stressed.
Earlier on Friday, Yorkshire water authorities said a hosepipe ban would begin on August 26, forbidding customers from using hoses to water gardens, wash cars or fill up paddling pools.
Across France, there are restrictions on water use, and the water police have been handing out fines. Local media reported that outdoor jacuzzis were vandalized in the tourist Vosges area, as some tensions over water rose.
Heat and drought were blamed for wildfires causing evacuations in France, and Italian farmers lost up to 80 percent of their harvest due to severe drought.
Despite hardships, there were some signs of hope: French firefighters say they observed the first signs of a slow down among fires in the southwestern region of Gironde.
“The fire did not grow very much during the day, despite very low humidity and high temperatures. Thanks to especially the combined action of the means that were made available,” added Marc Vermeulen, firefighting chief of Gironde.
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