Spain is battling wildfires as it smolders in a heatwave

ZARAGOZA, Spain, June 18 (Reuters) – Firefighters struggled to bring raging wildfires under control in Spain on Saturday and people sought relief with fans, shade and plenty of water as an unseasonably heatwave pushed temperatures close brought record highs.

Spain was heading for the hottest early summer temperatures in decades, with forecasts of 40 to 42 degrees Celsius (104 to 108 Fahrenheit) in Zaragoza in the northeast and in the areas of Navarre and La Rioja in northern Spain, according to national weather agency AEMET.

Many areas of western Europe have been sweating under unseasonably hot temperatures in recent days, fueling fears of climate change. Continue reading

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In Zaragoza, which is expected to sizzle under Spain’s highest temperature of 42C on Saturday, people waved fans and newspapers at a farmers’ market, stood in the shade and kept hydrated. By 4 p.m. the temperature had reached 40.9 °C.

Dry and windy conditions have sparked wildfires in several areas, with Zamora, near the border with Portugal, among the worst-hit.

Almost 20,000 hectares of land have been burned in the Sierra de la Culebra and the fire is “still active,” said a tweet from the regional government of Castile and Leon, where Zamora is located.

As of Saturday afternoon, it was said eleven villages had been evacuated and around 500 firefighters were working to put out the flames.

There were no reports of dead or injured.

In Catalonia, firefighters trying to get a blaze under control in Baldomar said they expected Saturday to be “complicated” by “very high temperatures and a strong southerly wind”.

Flames crackled and raged high into the air on the outskirts of the village of Caudiel in Castellon, eastern Spain.

Firefighters wearing masks, goggles and helmets struggled to control the blaze. They helped evacuate residents, some of whom dragged their dogs and horses, as smoke drifted through the village.

ZARAGOZA BRILLIANT

“This is evidence of climate change,” Bernardo Funes, 63, a stall owner and organic farmer in Zaragoza, told Reuters. “It’s very concerning because … we already had highs of 34, 35 degrees in May and now it’s about 44 degrees in June.”

In front of the city’s grand cathedral, Marisa Gutierrez sat under a shady canopy displaying the lottery tickets she was selling.

“It was very bad, with a hot wind that felt like it came from the desert,” she told Reuters. “It’s not normal… this time of year it’s usually a comfortable temperature, but not this heat.”

At a downtown bachelorette party, attendees dressed as Romans said they had to drink as much water as they did beer.

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Reporting by Vincent West and Jessica Jones; Editing by Clelia Oziel

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