Spain sizzles in hottest temperature on record

Spain saw its highest temperature on record on Saturday as a heatwave on the Iberian peninsula drove the mercury to 47.4°C (117.3°F), according to provisional data from the state meteorological agency.

Spain sizzles in hottest temperature on record
Spain measures hottest temperature on record. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

The temperature peaked around 5pm local time in the southern town of Córdoba, the agency said, passing the previous record set at the same measuring station in July 2017 by one-tenth of a degree.

“If confirmed, it would be the highest record reliably measured in Spain,” AEMET spokesman Ruben del Campo said.

Although temperatures are expected to ease in the coming days, several parts of the country, including the southern region of Andalucia and Murcia in the southeast, endured temperatures of over 45°C, Del Campo added.

That made this heatwave “probably one of the most intense experienced in Spain”, he said.

Climate scientists have repeatedly warned that manmade global warming will bring higher temperatures and more extreme weather events across the world.

European countries such as Greece and Turkey have already experienced heatwaves and wildfires this summer.

Between 2011 and 2020, Spain registered twice as many heatwaves as in the previous three decades, according to the agency.

In Spain on Sunday, five regions across the country were still on alert over extreme temperatures.

Increase in wildfires

Firefighters operate at the site of a wildfire between Navalacruz and Riofrio near Avila on August 16th. Photo: CESAR MANSO / AFP

The combination of the fierce heat and rise in suspended dust particles has also increased the fire risk, with the country remaining on high alert.

Fires in Spain’s central Avila province forced hundreds of people to flee their homes Sunday as parts of the country sweltered under crushing temperatures.

The fire, which has been burning in the city Navalcruz since Saturday morning, has been fed by winds of up to 70 kilometres an hour (54 miles per hour) across the Iberian peninsula.

It now has a perimeter of more than 40 kilometres and may already have burned more than 5,000 hectares (12,350 acres), said Jose Angel Arranz, forestry director of the Castilla y León region.

The authorities have already evacuated at least 600 people from five towns in the Avila district, near the Sierra de Gredos mountain range, and more than 500 firefighters are tackling the blaze with the help of specialised aircraft.

Around 80 kilometres to the south meanwhile, another fire, near El Raso, was still active. Like the one in Navalcruz, it is rated two on a three-point scale of seriousness.

The emergency services backed by 12 firefighting aircraft have also been fighting a blaze in Azuebar, eastern Spain, since Saturday, which has burned more than 500 hectares, the regional government in Valencia reported.

The blaze is also threatening part of the Sierra de Espadan Natural Park.

On Twitter, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez sent a message of solidarity to those forced to flee their homes.

READ ALSO: How The Local’s countries are impacted as July records Earth’s hottest month EVER

READ ALSO: Spain battles wildfires as heatwave kicks in

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Police operation targets illegal water tapping in Spain

More than 130 people were arrested or placed under investigation for illegal water tapping last year, Spain’s Guardia Civil police said on Wednesday following a huge operation.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park”
Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in Andalusia. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

During the year-long operation, “133 people were arrested or investigated for extracting water through more than 1,533 illegal infrastructure devices”, the police’s environmental unit said in a statement.

A similar operation in 2019 had targeted 107 people.

Spain is one of the European countries most at risk from the impact of drought caused by global warming, scientists say.

Water usage issues are often at the heart of heated political debates in Spain where intensive agriculture plays an important role in the economy.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in the southern Andalusia region, one of Europe’s largest wetlands and a Unesco World Heritage bird sanctuary.

They were also operating in “in the basins of Spain’s main rivers”.

In Doñana, police targeted 14 people and 12 companies for the illegal tapping of water for irrigation, a police spokesman said.

Ecologists regularly raise the alarm about the drying up of marshes and lagoons in the area, pointing the finger at nearby plantations, notably growing strawberries, which are irrigated by illegally-dug wells.

“The overexploitation of certain aquifers for many reasons, mainly economic, constitutes a serious threat to our environment,” the Guardia Civil said.

The European Court of Justice rapped Spain over the knuckles in June for its inaction in the face of illegal water extraction in Donana which covers more than 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) and is home to more than 4,000 species, including the critically endangered Iberian lynx.

According to the government’s last official estimate, which dates back to 2006, there were more than half a million illegal wells in use.

But in a 2018 study, Greenpeace estimated there were twice as many, calculating that the quantity of stolen water was equivalent to that used by 118 million people — two-and-a-half times the population of Spain.

Spanish NGO SEO/Birdlife also on Wednesday raised the alarm about the “worrying” state of Spain’s wetlands.