Macron promises to rebuild and replant under “different rules” after French fires | France

Vast swaths of blackened pine forest in southwestern France must be replanted and homes and businesses rebuilt ‘according to different rules’ dictated by the climate crisis, Emmanuel Macron said, as he called for a European fleet planes to fight forest fires.

A week of over 40C heat – part of a global trend of rising temperatures that scientists have attributed largely to human activity – has caused record-breaking misery from Portugal to the UK and fueling fires that have ravaged tens of thousands of hectares of land.

In France and Spain, six times more forests and moors have been ravaged by fire this year, and in Portugal three times more, than the average of the last 15 years, according to the figures. In Hungary, the burned area, although much smaller, is nearly 50 times larger than normal.

The French president hailed as heroes some of the nearly 2,000 firefighters who battled two huge blazes in southwestern France which since last week have destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of forest, forcing the evacuation of 37,000 people from their homes.

Visiting the Gironde department, Macron hailed the “tremendous chain of human solidarity united to defeat the beast that are these forest fires” and promised a “great national project” of reconstruction.

“Now we will stabilize the fire, continue the victory and rebuild,” Macron told residents and local business owners, including many owners of campsites, hotels and restaurants who depend on the summer tourist trade for a large part of their income.

The Mediterranean countries “are fully experiencing the consequences of climate change”, he said, warning that all “will have to work to adapt our concepts of civil security” with “more protective rules, a long-term prevention plan”.

He said France’s fleet of 22 firefighting aircraft was one of the most modern in Europe, but the country clearly needed more and they should be part of a European fleet that could be deployed in the block of 27 members.

Lower temperatures and a 300-meter-wide firebreak have helped contain – but not yet extinguish – the Gironde fires, officials said. “Our results are generally positive. The situation improved overnight,” said a fire department spokesperson. Two firefighters were seriously injured overnight.

French Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau said the government had already earmarked 850 million euros for the modernization of its fleet of firefighting planes, as well as a billion euros for replanting of trees, but recognized that it should do more.

“We have to deal with a fairly exceptional situation, we are talking about more than 20,000 hectares affected in Gironde, 1,500 in Finistère and 1,500 in Bouches-du-Rhône,” Fesneau said, referring to the damage caused in Brittany. and in the south. The fires continued to rage on Wednesday in Brittany.

A man who was being questioned on suspicion of deliberately starting one of the fires in the Gironde department was released early Wednesday morning, authorities said, after police ruled him out as a potential suspect of arson.

More than 60 French municipalities recorded their highest temperatures on record on Tuesday, including northern ports such as Dieppe, where the mercury reached 40.4 ° C, and Boulogne, which recorded 39.6 ° C, two degrees higher than its previous record.

A firefighter tries to put out the flames near Megara, west of Athens. Photograph: Petros Giannakouris/AP

Elsewhere, Greek firefighters have largely gained the upper hand in their battle against a wildfire that raged for a second day in the mountainside suburbs north of Athens and had forced hundreds to flee.

“For the most part the fire is in decline,” a fire department spokesperson said. Nearly 500 firefighters, 120 vehicles, nine planes and 10 helicopters were battling the blaze in the suburbs of Penteli, Pallini, Anthousa and Gerakas, where around 90,000 people live.

Another fire broke out on Wednesday morning in Megara, west of Athens, and the Greek government has asked European countries to send firefighters. A team from Romania helped fight Tuesday’s mountain fire.

Armando Silva, the head of civil protection for Portugal’s northern region, said rising temperatures and strong winds would make it more difficult to fight a huge forest fire that had burned 10,000 to 12,000 hectares since around Sunday. of the municipality of Murca.

In Spain, where fire crews were battling blazes in five different regions, the national weather service predicted higher temperatures for the end of the week, while in Italy wildfires continued to burn in several areas, including one that threatened to leave part of the north-eastern city of Trieste without electricity or water.

Firefighters near the town of Lucca in the central region of Tuscany battled a wildfire for a third consecutive day that had destroyed about 560 hectares (2.15 square miles) of forest, authorities said, and forced the evacuation of about 500 people.

“Some fronts have strengthened due to the wind,” regional governor Eugenio Giani said. In northeastern Friuli Venezia Giulia, people have been urged to stay indoors due to heavy smoke coming from the Carso region, which borders Croatia and Slovenia.

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Fourteen Italian cities, including Rome, Milan and Florence, are set to be put on alert for the country’s highest heat wave on Thursday, up from nine on Wednesday, with temperatures expected to hit 40C in the north and center of the country.

Britain topped 40C for the first time on Tuesday, breaking its previous record of 1.6 degrees. London firefighters endured their busiest day since World War II and on Wednesday engineers raced to repair warped railway tracks.

This article was amended on July 21, 2022 to clarify a reference to the role of human activity in rising temperatures.

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