Lisbon, Aug. 5 (Reuters): Portugal’s death toll from forest fires hit 11 today and French officials said they were sitting on top of a potential environmental volcano as blazes raged across Europe amid a relentless heatwave.
The heat was blamed for the deaths of four more people in Spain and strained power supplies in Italy as the population tried to stay cool. The high temperatures have stoked forest fires from Poland to the Iberian Peninsula, with Portugal’s blazes so extensive they can be seen in satellite pictures.
Portugal asked Nato for planes and helicopters to help fight the country’s worst blazes in two decades. “It wasn’t a fire, it was hell. There are no words to describe this,” said Pedro Carvalho, who led about 140 firefighters against an overnight blaze at Degolados, a mountain village about 200 km northeast of Lisbon.
The National Rescue Operations Centre said two more people had been killed in fires, raising the toll to 11 since the blazes broke out at the beginning of last week. In Spain and Germany at least 16 people have died in the heatwave. With temperatures nearing records in many parts of France, firefighters struggled to contain a forest fire near the picturesque Gorges du Tarn in the south of the country.
“We’re sitting on a volcano which could light up anywhere at any moment,” Jean Schmidt, a spokesman for the fire service in the Lozere region said.