Spanish hot summer. It gets worse every day: flames, heat, powerlessness

  • This summer, the climate crisis is more apparent than ever; with heat, fire, drought and large crop losses
  • Olivenza, located in the southwest of the country in the province of Extremadura, near Portugal. was dubbed the “pan of Spain” with record temperatures as high as 45.5 degrees C.
  • We see dead streets everywhere. People don’t leave their homes unless it’s necessary, and only in the early morning or late evening when they do
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Victor Dominguez doesn’t have much time to talk. He has just been sent with a Red Cross squad to another fire in the municipality of Casas Miravete in the province of Extremadura, a few hours’ drive south-west of Madrid.

At two o’clock in the morning, 66 people had to be evacuated. They needed a quiet place, water, food and the care of a psychologist. – People are generally very nervous. In the early morning hours, they had to leave everything behind and watch a massive fire raging around their village, Dominquez says.

He has been working tirelessly with other rescuers for several days in various places where there are fires. Also in Ladrillar, where the flames had consumed at least 4,000 hectares of land, hundreds of residents had to leave their homes.

– It’s been a very difficult week. Extremely high temperatures. The wind is constantly changing direction. The fire brigade is working to the limit and doing its best, says Viktor Dominquez. – But sometimes we feel powerless. We have no influence on the weather. And this is fundamental to controlling the fire, he adds.

Spain experiences a second long heat wave in July, with temperatures reaching 46 degrees Celsius for days or even more than a week. The first wave came in June, extremely early, and also led to several wildfires. One of them destroyed 30 thousand. ha in the Sierra da la Culebra Nature Reserve. The area is not only the last wolf stronghold in Western Europe, it is also important for agriculture and tourism.

This summer, the climate crisis is more apparent than ever; with heat, fire, drought and large crop losses. Only recently, the State Meteorological Service Aemet in Spain has published research and data over the past decades. Apparently this can be seen in the summer. Summer has become five to six weeks longer than it was in the 1980s. And in the past decade, the number and duration of heat waves has doubled.

Fires in Spain pose a growing threat – Europa Press / ABACA / PAP

These changes do not only lead to extreme droughts. They increase the risk of forest fires and affect human health. In Spain, at least 1,300 people die every year from extreme heat.

As meteorologist Beatriz Hervella explains, experience shows that the first heat wave of the year is also the most dangerous. – During this time, the body is usually not yet used to the heat. People who are sensitive or suffer from chronic diseases cannot stand the heat stress. Premature deaths do occur, although they could live longer. Therefore, it is important to understand that the first heat wave is the one in which you have to be extremely careful – emphasizes the expert.

Residents of the northern regions of Spain are particularly affected by this problem. – They are not used to higher temperatures than the inhabitants of the southern areas – says the meteorologist.

Olivenza, for example, is located in the southwest of the country in the province of Extremadura, near Portugal. Recently, the municipality was dubbed the “pan of Spain” with record temperatures of at least 45.5 degrees C.

Some fires pose a threat to residentsSome fires pose a threat to residents – JORGE GUERRERO / AFP / AFP

You can see ghost streets not only in Olivenza. People do not leave their homes unless it is necessary, and only in the early morning or late evening when they do.

Juan Pablo Marredo is about to remove the last load from his concrete mixer. The construction worker doesn’t really complain about the heat. – Summer is the same as always. However, people are very quick to forget last year’s heat wave. Well, maybe summer is actually a little longer now – he says.

Like his other construction colleagues and farmers, Marredo stops working before 3 p.m. The afternoon sun is too strong to continue working.

Further afield, at the Mar Cayado deli, the fans and air conditioning are on full blast. The owner has a fan, but it doesn’t help. – We’re exhausted. It’s been this hot for four days – he explains. Mar Cayado worries about the electricity bill and fears that politics will fail for everyone. – After all, I have to cool the store with fans and air conditioning, and of course my apartment – he adds.

Despite the news of longer and more extreme heat, moving to a new place is out of the question for her. – Even at 46 degrees I would never move. Extremadura is Extremadura. We know such years here. So we just have to deal with it as best we can. And look to the future – he says.

Olivenza shows immunity. Although the fires in northern Extremadura and in many other regions of Spain present a terrifying scenario. Firefighter Victor Dominquez makes no secret of the fact that his team is exhausted. – These are long days and the sight of the victims touches the heart when they leave the house and you can see that they are terrified – he says.

Not only the residents, but also the emergency services are tight. They are really ready to take any opportunity to bring the villagers to safety and care, Dominquez assures. Time and again, despite all the tension, he is overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. – When you give a tired firefighter a bottle of cold water, you realize that your work has meaning. And you don’t stop. Regardless of the price.

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