‘Monster octopus’ wildfire in France burns area twice the size of Paris

Jean-Luc Gleyze, Gironde’s regional president, told the BBC, “It’s a monster like an octopus, and it’s growing and growing and growing in the front, in the back, on both sides. Because of the temperature, because of the wind, because of the lack of water in the air… it’s a monster and it’s very difficult to fight against it.”

“These fires are no longer controllable,” said Sebastien Lahaye, former firefighter and coordinator with European projects on fire management.

He told FranceInfo, “”The only way for the fires to stop sustainably is a change in weather conditions.”

The blaze was literally “blowing things up” with its ferocity, said Marc Vermeulen, head of the local fire service. “Pine trunks of 40 years are bursting.”

Hurriedly packing her car, Patricia Monteil said she would go to her daughter’s home nearby. “But if that goes up in flames too, I don’t know what to do.”

In a strongly worded warning, the mayor of Bordeaux Pierre Hurmic blamed the fires on human inaction in the face of climate change.

“The house is burning more and more and yet people continue to look the other way,” Mr Hurmic told France Bleu on Tuesday.

Air pollution spiked in France and southern Europe amid record-breaking temperatures and scorching wildfires, which have also hit Spain and Portugal.

Scientists warned of unhealthy levels of ozone pollution across southern and western Europe which could soon affect northwestern regions, including the UK. Heatwaves increase ozone production.

Europe’s heatwave is expected to peak today but temperatures may remain above normal into the middle of next week, the World Meteorological Organization said.

“The question that everybody is asking looking ahead is – when is this going to end?,” said Robert Stefanski, chief of Applied Climate Services at the WMO. “Unfortunately, looking at all the models from all our partners at a national and regional level, possibly not until middle of next week.”

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas warned that he expected to see a “much higher” number of heat waves in future due to climate change.

Reinsurers Chaucer said that damage from wildfires in Europe had jumped by 75 per cent in 2020, the latest year for which there is data. The problem is expected to escalate as global temperatures rise.

Ellen Gyandzhuntseva, Head of Exposure Management at Chaucer , said “Wildfires have only become a major priority as a peril relatively recently. However, given the increase in frequency and severity, losses are beginning to mount. We have already seen some (re)insurers begin to limit their exposure as a result.”


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