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FEATURED EUROPE: Wildfires near Bordeaux wine region rage as fish die in drought-stricken rivers

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Ace News Room Cutting Floor 12/08/2022

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#AceNewsDesk – Firefighters from across Europe are struggling to contain a huge wildfire in France that has swept through a large swath of pine forest near the famous wine-growing region of Bordeaux.

Two fire trucks in front of flames
Wildfires have been devastating several parts of Europe, including France’s Gironde region.(AP: SDIS 33)none

Meanwhile, Germany and Poland have faced a mass fish die-off in a river bordering their countries.

Europe is suffering under a severe heat wave and a drought that has produced tragic consequences for farmers and ecosystems already under threat from climate change and pollution.

In France, which is enduring its worst drought on record, flames raged through pine forests overnight, illuminating the sky with an intense orange light in the Gironde region, which was already ravaged by flames last month, and in neighbouring Landes.

More than 68 square kilometres have burned since Tuesday (local time). 

The French wildfires have already forced the evacuation of about 10,000 people and destroyed at least 16 houses.

Toxic chemicals killing fish

a pile of dead fish floating on a river surface
The Oder river has been contaminated by a toxic chemical. (Reuters: Cezary Aszkiełowicz/Agencja

Along the Oder River, which flows from Czechia north into the Baltic Sea and sits on the Polish-German border, volunteers have been collecting dead fish that have washed ashore.

World Wildlife Fund Conservation policy director Piotr Nieznanski said it appeared a toxic chemical had been released into the water and the drought-driven low water levels had made the conditions far more dangerous for the fish.

“A tragic event is happening along the Oder River, an international river, and there is no transparent information about what is going on,” he said.

He is calling on government authorities to investigate.

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

Poland’s state water management body said the drought and high temperatures could cause even small amounts of pollution to lead to an ecological disaster. However, it has not identified the source of the pollution.

In northern Serbia, the dry bed of the Conopljankso reservoir is littered with dead fish unable to survive the drought, while water levels along the Rhine River, which flows through Germany, are at risk of falling so low it could become difficult to transport critical goods. 

In Switzerland, a drought and high temperatures have endangered fish populations and authorities have begun moving fish out of some creeks that are running dry.

In Hausen, Zurich, officials caught hundreds of fish, many of them brown trout, in the almost dried-up Heischerbach, Juchbach and Muehlebach creeks this week by anaesthetising them with electric shocks and then immediately placing them in a water tank enriched with oxygen, local media reported.

Later, the fish were taken to creeks that still carry enough water.

Europe’s worst droughts in decades

Dried up river Po where sand is scene where water would flow.
Northern Italy has not seen rainfall for months and this year’s snowfall was down by 70 per cent.(AP: Luigi Navarra)none

In Italy, which is experiencing its worst drought in seven decades, the parched Po River — which runs 652km from the north-western city of Turin to Venice — has already caused billions of euros in losses to farmers who normally rely on the river. 

It has dozens of tributary rivers but northern Italy has not seen rainfall for months and this year’s snowfall was down by 70 per cent.

The drying up of the Po is also jeopardising drinking water in Italy’s densely populated and highly industrialised districts.

In Portugal, the Serra da Estrela national park has also been ravaged by wildfire.

There have been 1,500 firefighters, 476 vehicles and 12 aircraft deployed to fight it but the wind-driven blaze 250 kilometres north-east of Lisbon is very hard to reach, with inaccessible peaks almost 2,000 metres high and deep ravines.

The fire has charred 10,000 hectares of woodland.

Britain at risk of wildfire

In Britain, where temperatures hit a record 40.3 degrees Celsius in July, the weather office has issued a new warning for “extreme heat” from Thursday through Sunday, with temperatures forecast to reach 36C.

The Met Office weather service said there was an “exceptional risk” of wildfires over the next few days.

London Fire Brigade said its control room had dealt with 340 grass, garbage and open-land fires during the first week of August, eight times the number from last year.

Assistant Commissioner Jonathan Smith said: “The grass in London is tinderbox dry and the smallest of sparks can start a blaze which could cause devastation.”


#AceNewsDesk report ………..Published: Aug.12: 2022:

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