BFF-51 European heatwave brings drought, wildfires

ZCZC

BFF-51

EUROPE-WEATHER

European heatwave brings drought, wildfires

LONDON, July 20, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Wildfires in the Arctic Circle,
drought-stricken farmers and a spike in hospital treatment for sunburn: an
unusually long heatwave this summer has northern Europe in its grip.

Farmers across the region have warned that crop yields will be down while
poor grass quality is affecting the quality of milk and the availability of
animal fodder.

In Sweden, where temperatures are the highest for a century, farmers are
even sending their animals to slaughter because there is no hay left to feed
them.

Their plight is extreme, but echoes concerns across Europe at weeks of
soaring temperatures and little rain.

Poland has asked the EU for financial aid after more than 91,000 farms
were affected by an unusual spring drought, according to the agriculture
ministry.

Latvia declared a national state of disaster in its farms sector in June
and also requested early payment of agricultural subsidies from Brussels.

A massive wildfire forced the evacuation of a village in western Latvia
earlier this week, which firefighters were still struggling to contain on
Friday.

Volunteers, including local farmers who helped transport water through the
forests in their tractors, joined the army and national guard to help fight
the blaze.

The high temperatures also brought downpours, including flash flooding in
the Tatra mountain area spanning the Polish-Slovak border.

Around 300 people were evacuated on Thursday night from a village on the
Slovak side, rescue officials said.

In Germany, which suffered a drought in May and June, agricultural
producers warned the harvest this year will be down by between 20 and 50
percent.

A wildfire earlier this month in the eastern state of Saxe-Anhalt,
meanwhile, destroyed 80 hectares of forest.

In Britain, a wildfire on Saddleworth moor in northwest England, believed
to have been started by arson, raged for three weeks before it was put out on
Thursday.

With just 47 millimetres of rain recorded in Britain between June 1 and
July 16, fire chiefs have warned that parks and other grasslands are like a
“tinderbox”.

Last weekend saw an area the size of 100 football pitches burn near Epping
Forest east of London.

“I never thought I’d say this, but we are praying for rain,” said the
capital’s fire chief Dany Cotton.

A ban on hosepipes and sprinklers is being introduced in northwest England
on August 5, prompting advice for people to water their gardens with bath
water.

Meanwhile doctors warned of an increase in hospital attendances and
admissions due to dehydration and sunburn, particularly among elderly
patients.

BSS/AFP/BZC/1940HRS