Europe battles wildfires amid massive heat wave

Rains are expected to bring some respite over the next 24 hours in some areas.

August 07, 2018, 3:00 PM

LONDON -- Record-breaking temperatures across Europe have forced people to sleep in a Finnish supermarket, uncovered a piece of World War II history in Ireland and are making it harder to battle the wildfires that have been raging in Spain and Portugal for days. Forecasters are promising some respite over the next 24 hours, however, as rain in Scandinavia and thunderstorms across the United Kingdom help bring temperatures down.

In Portugal, an oppressive four-day wildfire in the south of the country flared up again Tuesday, a day after the Portuguese Civil Protection Agency said firefighters had contained some 95 percent of the blaze.

More than 1,100 firefighters were deployed to fight the wildfires near popular tourist spots with the help of 13 aircraft, including two large Canadair water-dropping planes from Spain, according to the Associated Press.

France is still in the midst of a heat wave, with temperatures in Paris hitting 97 degrees. French publication The Local dubbed today "Terrible Tuesday" as temperatures in some parts of the country were expected to hit 99 degrees. The Local reports traffic is being curbed in both Lyon and Paris to try to reduce air pollution.

France's national weather service said this heat wave could be among the "top three" hottest on record.

PHOTO: A helicopter drops water over a wildfire in Pinet, in the eastern Spanish region of Valencia, August 7, 2018.
A helicopter drops water over a wildfire in Pinet, in the eastern Spanish region of Valencia, August 7, 2018. In the Valencia region some 2,500 people were driven from their homes overnight to escape flames that have already swept across around 1,000 hectares, as fire crews struggled to bring the fires under control.
Jose Jordan/AFP/Getty Images

In Spain, more than 2,000 people have been evacuated in the Valencia region due to almost a dozen separate wildfires. The death toll from the heatwave in Spain rose to seven after a German man died of heatstroke on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage over the weekend, AFP reported.

Water levels in the Netherlands' famous canals and dams are so low that seawater is now seeping into waterways, according to AFP.

Wildfires in Sweden are finally under control after rainstorms Monday night. And in Finland, one Helsinki supermarket opened its doors last weekend to customers seeking refuge from the heat, according to a video posted to the store's Facebook page. On Saturday night, 100 people slept in the cool aisles next to the frozen vegetables.

In Greece, temperatures have finally cooled down but the death toll in last month's wildfire northeast of Athens rose to 91 when a 95-year-old woman died of her injuries, officials told AFP.

PHOTO: This undated photo released by the Irish Air Corps on Aug. 4, 2018, shows the word Eire, which means Ireland on Bray Head, Ireland.
This undated photo released by the Irish Air Corps on Aug. 4, 2018, shows the word Eire, which means Ireland on Bray Head, Ireland. A wildfire uncovered the World War Two-era landmark that was hidden for years by undergrowth.
Garda Air Support Unit/Irish Air Corps via AP

In Ireland, wildfires have revealed a World War II-era "Eire" signal, under the charred brush, designed to signal to air crews that they were over neutral Irish territory. The word Eire means Ireland in the Irish language. The Defense Forces Air Corps noticed the landmark while helping fight the fires.

Meanwhile, in England, people are eagerly awaiting the thunderstorms forecast for Tuesday evening to help cool things off.

The Met Office, the U.K.'s national weather service, issued a yellow alert for the southeast of the country, warning that "frequent lightning may occur, along with heavy rain."

The weather agency added that "large hail and sudden strong gusts of wind" are also likely to hit eastern England.

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