Europe is on fire as a record heatwave moves east and sets fires in Greece, Italy and France.

After temperature broke records in the UK on Tuesday, a heatwave is moving east across the continent, leaving a trail of destruction in many rural areas and exposing a lack of preparedness even in some of Europe’s largest cities.

Temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (nearly 38 degrees Celsius) are forecast for Germany, Hungary and Italy today or in the coming days.

The European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) said Wednesday that 19 European countries were in “extreme danger” due to wildfires in an area stretching from Portugal and Spain in the southwest to Albania and Turkey in the southeast.

On the outskirts of the Greek capital Athens, firefighters are battling huge blazes where the wind is kicking up flames and smoke and hampering containment efforts. At least 600 people have been evacuated, including from a children’s hospital, according to authorities.

“Our top priority remains the protection of human lives. But also the protection of vital public infrastructure as well as the property of citizens,” Greek Fire Service spokesman Ioannis Artopoyos said during a televised briefing early Wednesday morning.

A firefighter tries to put out a blaze in Pallini, near Athens, Greece on July 20.

Huge clouds of smoke remain visible in the city on Wednesday despite the efforts of hundreds of firefighters. Romanian fire brigades were brought in to assist in the operation.

Fires are also being fought in parts of Italy. Forest fires in Tuscany led to the explosion of gas tanks and forced evacuations overnight. according Regional President Eugenio Giani. In Alsdorf, western Germany, a fire injured three residents and two firefighters on Tuesday, and much of the country is poised for more fires as temperatures rise on Wednesday.

In France, aircraft continued to drop water on burning landscapes. The fires have been raging there for a week now, although they made “very little” progress in the Gironde region on Tuesday evening, according to local authorities. Smoke billowed over the Brennilis nuclear power plant in Brittany on Wednesday morning.

Firefighters spray water on a wildfire in Mont-d'Arret, in Brittany, northwest France.

There has been some respite in the UK, where temperatures dropped from a record high of 40.3 C (104.5 F) on Tuesday into the 20s. But some residential areas around London were left in ruins after fires broke out in different parts of the capital, forcing the fire service to the limit.

“Yesterday was the busiest day for the London fire department since World War II,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan told Sky News on Wednesday. At one point there were no fire engines available in London due to unprecedented demand, a senior firefighter from the London Fire Brigade’s Special Rescue Team told CNN.

‘Apocalyptic’ scenes as Europe adjusts to new reality

While countries in the region are grappling with the immediate effects of extreme heat, many are also grappling with a climate reality that has brought new risks to the continent.

hot records ahead of steep records by more than 10 to 1 around the world this year, according to data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Worldwide, 188 all-time heat records were broken, compared to 18 cool records through July 16. Studies have shown that extreme heat waves will increase in frequency, intensity and duration due to the climate crisis.
“We learn the hard way that we must better prepare and protect our forests and soils to stop living in these nightmares every summer!” Virginijus Sinkevičius, EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, tweeted on Wednesday.

Residents in some hard-hit regions of Europe have dealt a blow to their leaders as extreme temperatures devastated their areas.

The campsite owner told BFMTV, a CNN affiliate, on Tuesday that “we have demands” on President Emmanuel Macron, who will visit the ravaged Southwest on Wednesday.

“We hope that he will be able to very quickly order the public services to help us, support us in the administrative steps to get the campsite up and running as soon as possible,” said Stefan Carella, co-owner of Pyla Camping. part of which was destroyed by fire.

France has been fighting forest fires for a week now.

“Everything went up in smoke,” he said, about 90% of his property was damaged by the fire. Carella called the remainder of the site “apocalyptic”.

Until Tuesday, politicians or residents rarely thought about the threat of bushfires in the UK. But many places in the south of England were shrouded in smoke on the country’s hottest day on record.

A resident of Wennington, the London suburb hit by Tuesday’s fire, told CNN that the gardens on his street were “like a tinderbox” in the days leading up to the fire.

Stock lost his house, eight chickens and two beehives when a fire broke out.

“I didn’t sleep last night. I was in a hotel room thinking how bad things could have gone,” he said. “I just thank God that everyone is alive.”

He added: “We have lost everything. But when we get back, we can clear the area, put up fences, buy a couple of mobile homes and start over.”

Elinda Labropoulou of CNN, Chris Stern, Nina dos Santos, Robert Shackleford, Madalena Araujo, Alex Hardy, Bianca Nobilo and Joseph Ataman contributed to the report.