7th Dec 2023

Forest fire near Bordeaux forces over 10,000 to flee

  • The forest fire near the small town Landiras has been raging since Wednesday (Photo: Matt Trostle)
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Thousands of firefighters in the forested area near Bordeaux, France, are battling a wildfire, which has already forced 10,000 to flee.

Strong winds and persistently high temperatures spread the fire fast, causing considerable danger to firefighters.

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Several were injured, one of them in serious condition.

The massive forest fire, described by a fire chief as a "monster", has been raging for two days near the small town of Landiras and the smoke plume from the fire is so large that it is visible on satellite images.

During the night from Wednesday to Thursday, the fire brigade managed to save the village of Belin-Béliet from the flames.

But all of its 2,000 inhabitants had to be evacuated, and the blaze is still spreading.

Some 65 German firefighters have arrived from Bonn, and others from Poland and Romania are soon expected to be in the fire zone.

The area is covered with ancient pine forests, which make the area prone to forest fires.

In July, 27 thousand hectares of forest were already lost. The forest of La Teste-de-Buch on the coast has almost completely disappeared.

New normal

According to data from Copernicus, the EU's climate monitoring agency, nearly 58 thousand hectares of forests across the country have already gone up in flames.

It is the largest forested area consumed by fire since 2008, when monitoring began, and more than five times the yearly average.

Other European countries are also struggling with more forest fires than usual.

A wildfire is raging in the mountainous Serra de Estrela park in central Portugal, where 10,000 hectares of forest have been destroyed.

Especially in Romania, Slovenia and Spain more forest has been lost than usual.

In total, the EU's Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) recorded a total burnt area of 587,868 hectares in the European Union on 30 July since the beginning of the year, compared with an average of around 158,000 hectares for the 2006-2021 reference period.

Since then, the number of hectares lost has increased even further.

And it is expected that severe wildfires will become more frequent as summers become drier and warmer due to climate change.

In addition, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report shows that Europe, especially Southern Europe, is warming faster than other parts of the world, with temperatures already 2.2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level.

French prime minister Élisabeth Borne, who visited the affected area, also connected forest fires in her country to the effects of climate change and announced reforestation programmes to restore parts of the lost forests.

France recorded its driest July in more than 60 years, with just 9.7 millimetres of rain.

As a result, more than 100 French municipalities have no running drinking water and are being supplied by truck.

Almost two-thirds of Europe in danger of drought

Data released by the European Drought Observatory show 60 percent of Europe and the United Kingdom is currently in a state of drought, with farming, homes and industry being affected. Drought conditions have also led to an increase in wildfires.

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With the prolonged lack of rain and high temperatures, fears have emerged over water shortages and droughts decreasing crop yields — prompting calls to use less water and reuse urban wastewater for agricultural irrigation.


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