Firefighters battled three forest fires in Spain on Thursday as a heatwave that has struck south-eastern Europe in recent days shifted west towards the Iberian Peninsula.
Dozens of firefighters, aided by four drops of water, were at the site of a fire in northeastern Tarragona province that has so far destroyed about 40 hectares (100 acres) of protected forest, local officials said.
In the northern wine-growing region of La Rioja and the northeastern province of Zaragoza, two smaller fires burned, in which two planes were involved.
The forest fires come as temperatures in much of Spain and neighboring Portugal are expected to peak around 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in the coming days.
The mercury could hit some areas of southern Spain in the mid-1940s.
Scientists say the global temperature rise caused by man-made climate change will make heat waves more frequent and intense, and their effects will spread further.
A heat wave fed by hot air from North Africa has struck large swaths of the Mediterranean basin in recent days, contributing to massive forest fires and killing dozens of people in Italy, Turkey, Greece and Algeria.
All but three of the 17 Spanish regions were on alert, while the Portuguese Meteorological Office warned that the center and north of the country, as well as parts of the southern Algarve province, were on “maximum” alert for forest fires.
Dozens of fires were killed in Portugal in 2017.
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa urged people to avoid “risky behavior” that could lead to forest fires.
“We know that the next few days will be difficult,” he said on Thursday during a visit to a civil defense center.
“We face an ongoing challenge that is the result of climate change,” he added.
Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia on Thursday banned forest camping and sporting activities in rural areas to reduce the risk of forest fires.
It also banned the use of some farm implements during the hottest hours of the day.
For the first time since 1920, temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius have been forecast for three consecutive days in central Madrid’s Retiro Park, tweeted Ruben del Campo, spokesman for the Spanish weather agency AEMET.
The number of heat waves registered in Spain between 2011 and 2020 was twice as high as in any of the previous three decades, he told AFP.