Extreme heat has engulfed parts of western Europe, with wildfires raging in France and Spain, a worsening drought in Portugal, and the third hottest day on record in the UK on Monday.
Fire has spread across 27,000 acres in the Gironde department of southwest France, forcing 32,000 people to evacuate, the local prefecture said Monday night.
The nearby town of Cazaux recorded 42.4 degrees Celsius (108.3 degrees Fahrenheit) on Monday, the hottest it has seen since its weather station first opened more than 100 years ago in 1921, according to French national meteorological service Météo France.
Major cities in Western France, such as Nantes and Brest, also hit new heat records, it said.
In Finistère, on the country’s Atlantic coast, fires had first been reported on Monday afternoon; less than eight hours later, the flames had decimated more than 700 acres of land, prompting the evacuation of several villages.
In Spain, wildfires swept the central region of Castile and Léon, as well as the northern region of Galicia Sunday, Reuters reported. Fire also forced the state railway company to suspend service between Madrid and Galicia.
More than 70,000 hectares have been destroyed in Spain because of fires this year, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Monday. “Seventy-thousand hectares, to give you an idea, is almost double the last decade’s average,” he said.
The country’s Carlos III Health Institute on Monday estimated a cumulative total of more than 510 heatwave-related deaths in the country, based on statistical calculation of excess deaths.
Hundreds have also died in neighboring Portugal, where sweltering temperatures exacerbate a severe drought.
On Saturday, Portugal’s Health Ministry said 659 mainly elderly people had died in the previous seven days, Reuters reported.
An elderly couple also died Monday after their vehicle overturned while fleeing wildfires in northern Portugal, the country’s state broadcaster RTP reported.
In total, over 1,100 people are thought to have died due to the ongoing heatwave in southern Europe.
‘Peak of intensity’
The blistering heat wave is expected to peak early this week.
As the heatwave moves across the country, French capital Paris is expected to reach 39 degrees Celsius (102.2 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday.
In the UK – where Monday’s temperatures reached 38.1 degrees in eastern England’s Santon Downham, making it the third hottest day on record – officials warned things would likely get worse.
Tuesday is “expected to be even hotter,” according to the Met Office’s CEO, Penelope Endersby.
“It’s tomorrow that we’re really seeing the higher chance of 40 degrees and temperatures above that,” Endersby told BBC Radio on Monday.
“Even possibly above that, 41 is not off the cards. We’ve even got some 43s in the model but we’re hoping it won’t be as high as that.”
In France, the heat wave is expected to move away from the western part of the country on Tuesday, heading toward the center and eastern part instead, including Paris.
Belgium’s Royal Meteorological Institute (KMI/IRM) has issued a “code red” weather warning for heat in two provinces on Tuesday, forecasting temperatures up to 40 Celsius in the west and southwest.
“With such very high temperatures certain measures will be necessary: drink regularly, wear lighter clothes, spend the day in cooler rooms, monitor the state of your health regularly, eat easily digestible food (and in smaller portions), keep doors and windows closed to keep the heat out. Pets and animals also need extra care,” it warned residents.
Nearly half of Europe’s territory, including the UK, is “at risk” of drought, researchers at the EU Commission said Monday.
The Joint Research Centre highlighted that the drought in much of Europe is “critical” as the “winter-spring precipitation deficit … was exacerbated by early heatwaves in May and June.”
Water supply may be “compromised” in the coming months, according to the report.
Speaking to CNN on Monday, Oxford University Professor Myles Allen warned that such heatwaves will be inevitable if mankind doesn’t soon reduce its carbon emissions.
“This isn’t a new normal because we’re just on a trend towards ever hotter temperatures,” Allen told CNN on Monday.
The solution, he said, is sweeping change across the energy industry. Individual companies are unlikely to change their business models unilaterally due to concerns over losing competitiveness with rivals, he added.
“It’s got to be a regulation on the industry as a whole,” said Allen.
Joseph Ataman, Jimmy Hutcheon and Xiaofei Xu reported from Paris. Zahid Mahmood and Sana Noor Haq reported from London. CNN’s Renee Bertini, James Frater and Sharon Braithwaite contributed reporting to this post.