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Europe reels as repeated heatwaves cause chaos

Firefighting aircraft from Greece and Sweden will arrive in France on Thursday while other EU governments including Germany, Poland, Austria and Romania are also mobilizing resources to help France fight its raging wildfires, the French government announced.

“Today, we benefit fully from European solidarity,” Borne told reporters during a visit to the town of Hostens at the heart of the fires of the Gironde region in southwest France. More than half of this year’s fires occurred in Gironde.

A total of four planes from Greece and Sweden are expected to arrive in France today, as well as a team of 64 people and 24 vehicles from Germany, according to the Élysée Palace.

The Gironde fires have burned more than 6,800 hectares of forest, and nearly 1,100 firefighters are involved with more on the way. As of Thursday morning, 10,000 people have been evacuated from the area, according to the regional authority.

“The conditions are particularly difficult: the vegetation and the soil are particularly dry after more than a month without rain. The scorching temperatures (40°C today) (104°F) are expected to continue until Saturday and combine with very dry air to create conditions of very severe risk of fire outbreak,” according to the statement.

Wildfires in France have been especially violent this summer, raging across the south and southwestern part of the country while also popping up in the regions of Normandy and Brittany — further north than is typical.

Fires have burnt through 41,400 hectares in France since June 10, a huge increase compared to the 2,040 hectares lost in the same period last year, the press office of the French Interior Ministry’s civil security department told CNN.

Italy, Spain and the UK also suffering

In Italy, farmers in some parts of the country have lost up to 80% of their harvest this year due to severe weather anomalies, the Coldretti farming association said Thursday.

Drought has meant that the soil hasn’t been able to absorb any rainfall in recent storms, leading to flooding and landslides, according to Coldretti.

Hail was “the most serious climatic event due to the irreversible damage it caused to the crops,” the association said, adding that “in a few minutes, it is able to destroy a whole year’s work.”

La Vinuela reservoir near Malaga, southern Spain pictured on  August 8.

The farming association estimates the damage to exceed 6 billion euros ($6.2 billion), equal to 10% of Italy’s annual agricultural production.

Elsewhere in the Mediterranean, Spain’s national weather agency AEMET has warned of high temperatures across Spain as the heatwave on the peninsula continues.

Heat warnings are in place in various parts of the country for Thursday, with the largest concentration of affected communities in Spain’s northeastern regions near the border with France.

Temperatures are expected to rise to up to 40C, according to AEMET.

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Most parts of the country are covered by heat warnings for Friday and maximum temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius are expected in the northeast and south of Spain.

The UK is also suffering another week of high temperatures, with the Met Office issuing an “amber extreme heat warning” on Tuesday.

“The Extreme heat warning, which covers much of the southern half of England as well as parts of eastern Wales, will be in force from Thursday through until the end of Sunday with impacts possible to health, transport and infrastructure,” the Met Office said in a statement.

Temperatures are expected to peak on Friday and Saturday and are “likely” to hit the low-to-mid 30 degrees Celsius (86 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the statement.

CNN’s Pierre Bairin, Amandine Hess, Xiaofei Xu, Jorge Engels, Benjamin Brown and Nicola Ruotolo contriubuted to this report.


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