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Heat-related deaths top 1,100 in Spain, Portugal amid heat wave and wildfires

Sebastian Gollnow/picture alliance via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — As Western Europe experiences a record-breaking heat wave, Spain and Portugal have reported at least 1,169 heat-related deaths, according to each country’s ministry of health.

At least 510 people died from heat-related issues in Spain between July 10 and July 18, the country’s health ministry said. Of those deaths, 273 were recorded on Friday, officials said. Another 659 heat-related deaths were recorded in Portugal between July 7 and July 17, local officials said.

Thousands of firefighters were having trouble containing forest fires in France, Spain and Portugal that have destroyed thousands of acres of land. The fires have forced thousands of people to evacuate to safety, as extreme heat grips the region.

In southern France, more than 14,000 people were forced to flee as fires spread to more than 27,180 acres of land. The country’s Interior Ministry also issued red alerts for heat waves for 15 French departments and orange alerts for 51 departments on Sunday.

France, reached a high of 40.8 degrees Celsius — 105.44 Fahrenheit — on Sunday. Temperatures remained high on Monday and Tuesday, but were expected to break by Wednesday.

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The number of people who died of heat-related deaths is unknown, but France’s Ministry of Health told ABC News that information on the number of casualties will be released at the end of the month.

Firefighters in Spain were fighting 30 active fires, mostly in Castilla y Leon, Galicia and Andalusia, Interior Ministry and Catalan Authorities said.

Temperatures on Sunday were forecast to reach 42 C (107.6 F) in three provinces in the country, prompting the state meteorological agency to issue “extreme risk” alerts.

In Mijas, Spain, in the municipality of Malaga, 3,000 people have fled due to fires. More than 22,000 acres of land are at risk of being burned in the Mijas province as firefighters struggle to contain the flames.

Wildfires are happening earlier in the season, ending later and becoming more frequent because of climate change, the European Union said in a report last year.

“Climate change is aggravating the situation, making countries more prone to wildfires and increasing the intensity of such events,” the report said.

The sweltering heat is also expected to take hold of other parts of Europe in the coming days.

The U.K. on Tuesday posted its highest temperature on record, after government officials declared a national emergency and issued unprecedented health warnings.

In the village of Charlwood, England, a temperature of 39.1 degrees Celsius (102.38 Fahrenheit) was provisionally recorded by the Met Office. Temperatures are likely to rise throughout the day, they said.

Monday night saw the U.K. experience the hottest night on record, the Met Office said.

For the first time, the Met Office has issued a “Red warning” in response to the extraordinary heat.

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