Wildfires spread, fish die off amid severe drought in Europe

PARIS (AP) — Firefighters across Europe struggled Thursday to contain a massive blaze in a pine forest in France, while Germans and Poles grappled with large fish kills in rivers that flow through their countries.

Europe has been suffering from severe heat waves and droughts which have had tragic consequences for farmers And ecosystems are already threatened by climate change and pollution.

The drought is damaging agricultural produce and other food at a time when supply shortages and Russia’s war against Ukraine have fueled inflation.

In France, which is suffering the worst drought on record, flames raged through pine forests overnight, lighting up the sky in the Gironde region, already ravaged by flames last month, and the neighboring Landes with a bright orange glow. More than 68 square kilometers (26 square miles) have burned since Tuesday.

The French forest fires have already forced the evacuation of around 10,000 people and destroyed at least 16 homes.

Along the Oder River, which flows north from Zekija into the Baltic Sea, volunteers are collecting dead fish washed ashore in Poland and Germany.

Piotr Niznanski, director of conservation policy at WWF Poland, said it appears that toxic chemicals were released into the water by an industry, and that the drought has made the situation more dangerous for fish as the water level has dropped.

“A tragic incident is happening along the Oder River, an international river, and there is no transparent information about what is going on,” he said, calling on government officials to investigate.

People living along the river have been warned not to swim or touch the water.

Poland’s state water management agency said drought and high temperatures could cause even small amounts of pollution to cause an environmental disaster, but the source of the pollution has not been identified.

In northern Serbia, the dry bed of the Konopljanxo reservoir is now filled with dead fish that could not survive the drought.

Water level along the Rhine River in Germany There was a risk of falling so low that it could become difficult to transport goods – including critical energy commodities such as coal and gasoline.

Italy is experiencing its worst drought in seven decadesThe dry Po River has already cost billions of euros to those who normally rely on Italy’s longest river to irrigate their fields and rice paddies.

“I’m young and I don’t remember anything like this, but the elders in my village or other villages around have never seen this, never,” said Antonio Cestari, a 35-year-old farmer from Ficarolo. Who says he expects to produce only half of his usual crops of corn, wheat and soybeans because of low water levels in his river wells.

The Po runs 652 kilometers (405 mi) from the northwestern city of Turin to Venice. There are dozens of tributaries but northern Italy hasn’t rained in months and snowfall is down 70% this year. The drying up of the Po also threatens drinking water in Italy’s densely populated and highly industrialized districts.

In Portugal, Serra da Estrella National Park was also devastated by wildfires. About 1,500 firefighters, 476 vehicles and 12 aircraft were deployed to fight it but the wind-driven blaze, 250 kilometers (150 mi) northeast of Lisbon, was difficult to reach, with almost 2,000 meters (6,560 ft) of inaccessible peaks. The fire has burned 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) of forest.

In Britain, where temperatures reached 40.3 degrees Celsius (104.5 degrees Fahrenheit) in July, the Met Office has issued a new warning for “extreme heat” from Thursday to Sunday, with temperatures forecast to reach 36 C (96.8 F).

It has been one of the driest summers on record in southern Britain and the Met Office’s weather service said there was an “exceptional risk” of bushfires over the next few days.

London Fire Brigade said its control room tackled 340 grass, rubbish and open ground fires in the first week of August, eight times more than last year. Assistant Commissioner Jonathan Smith said, “The grass in London is a tinderbox dry and the tiniest of sparks can start a fire that can cause devastation.”

In Switzerland, drought and high temperatures have threatened fish populations, and authorities have begun moving fish from some dried-up creeks.

In Hausen, in the canton of Zurich, officials this week caught hundreds of fish, many of them brown trout, in the nearly dry Hescherbach, Zuchbach and Mühlebach creeks by anesthetizing them with electric shocks and then immediately placing them in water tanks. Rich in oxygen, local media reported. Later, the fish were moved to creeks that still carried enough water.

Despite all the damage caused by extreme weather, Swiss officials see an anomaly: They believe there is hope to find some of the people who have gone missing in the mountains over the past few years because their bodies are being released as glaciers melt.

In the Swiss canton of Valais, melting glaciers have recently revealed parts of a crashed plane and, in a separate location, at least two skeletons. The bodies have not yet been identified, the website 20Minuten reported on Thursday.

Spanish state television showed dozens of trucks bound for France and forced to stay in Spain as wildfires forced authorities to close some border crossings. TVE reported that truckers, many carrying perishable goods, were looking for ways to cross the border as parking spaces around the Irun crossing were filled.

France is in its fourth heatwave of the year this week as it faces what the government has described as the country’s worst drought. Temperatures were expected to reach 40 Celsius (104 F) on Thursday.


Gera reported from Warsaw, Poland. Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin, Jill Lawless in London, Ciaran Giles in Madrid, Ficarolo, Andrea Rosa in Italy and Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Portugal contributed to reporting.


Follow all AP stories on climate change at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment.

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