Wildfires continued to spread through France, Spain and Portugal on Thursday as record-breaking heat waves plague Europe, prompting the head of the European Space Agency to demand immediate action on climate change.
A “monster” wildfire has destroyed thousands of hectares in the Gironde area of southwestern France just two weeks after another fire tore through the same region.
More than 1,000 firefighters have struggled to bring the conflagration, which has forced about 10,000 people from their homes, under control.
About 79% of the 250,000 firefighters in France are volunteers, according to data from the French Fire Fighter Service. And 10,000 of them are deployed across the country to battle wildfires, including the Gironde blaze, which has been exacerbated by drastic heat waves and fierce winds.
Similar to France, firefighters in Portugal are on their sixth day of fighting a wildfire that has destroyed about 10,500 hectares in the central Covilha region, as well as part of the Serra da Estrela national park.
Extreme weather and climate change are widely blamed for the increasingly common heat waves, melting glaciers, and flooding.
The head of the European Space Agency, Josef Aschbacher, reported that these extreme climatological events have begun taking a toll on agriculture and other vital industries.
“It’s pretty bad. We have seen extremes that have not been observed before,” Aschbacher said to Reuters.
Extreme drought conditions have also taken a toll elsewhere in the European Union, with France and Germany feeling the effects through slow agricultural production and water shortages.