Spain battles wildfires as it swelters in heat wave

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Fire fighters battled to contain raging wildfires in Spain on Saturday, while people sought relief with fans, shade and plenty of water as an unseasonable heat wave pushed temperatures close to record highs.

Spain was headed towards its hottest early summer temperatures in decades, with forecasts of between 40-42 degrees Celsius in Zaragoza in the North East and areas of Navarre and La Rioja in Northern Spain, according to National weather agency AEMET.

Many areas of Western Europe have been sweltering under unseasonably hot temperatures over the past few days, compounding climate change fears.

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

Portugal border worst hit

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

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

No deaths or injuries have been reported.

In Catalonia, fire fighters who were trying to bring a fire 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.

Fire fighters, wearing masks, goggles and helmets, struggled to bring the flames under control. They helped evacuate residents, some of whom dragged along their pet dogs and horses, as smoke wafted through the village.

Zaragoza sizzling

Bernardo Funes, (63) a stallholder and organic farmer in Zaragoza, told Reuters “This is evidence of climate change,” “It is very worrying because we’ve already had highs of 34-35 degrees in May and now in June, it’s something like 44 degrees.”

Outside the city’s grand cathedral, Marisa Gutierrez was sitting beneath a shaded canopy that displayed the lottery tickets she was selling.

She explains, “It’s been very bad, with a hot wind that felt as if it was from the desert… This isn’t normal… at this time of year there’s usually a pleasant temperature and not this heat.”

Meanwhile at a stag do in the city centre, participants dressed as Romans; say they have to drink as much water as beer.