GFMC: Meterological Conditions and Fire in South East Asia

Forest Fires in Southern Europe

06 August 2003, 09:48

Latest Satellite Images:

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Satellite Aqua, August 4, 2003 11.30GMT
Pixel Size 500m, True Color Satellite Terra, August 4, 2003 13.05GMT
Pixel Size 1000m, Bands 721

This images of the fire (marked in red), which is creating a thick plume of smoke, were captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra and Aqua satellite.

Source: MODIS

Fig.3. Fire-weather forecast for Europe

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Fire Weather Index (FWI) forecast  for this week (left) and the predicted FWI total for next month (right) for Europe.
(Source: ECPC Fire Weather Index Forecast)

GFMC Media Release (in German, with fire statistical data for the Mediterranean region)

Actual On-Site Fire Information, recorded by a Fire Monitoring Vehicle.

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Forest Fires  in Spain and Portugal
Source: Frankfurter Rundschau

No let-up for Europe heatwave 

Europe is continuing to swelter under a heatwave which has sent temperatures soaring right across the region. 

The blistering heat has sparked off a series of forest fires and set new records across the continent. 
The Portuguese Government has asked Nato to provide water carrying helicopters and equipment to help hundreds of firefighters still battling to control the blazes in the central and southern parts of the country. 
Two more bodies – those of a 62-year-old man and an elderly woman – were found on Tuesday, bringing the total number of dead in Portugal to 11. 
Smoke in some places is now so thick that planes and helicopters have been unable to fight the flames from the air. The fires are so bad they can be seen in satellite photos. 
Temperatures in the country have hit 40C and with no sign of respite until next week at the earliest it is feared they could climb as high as 42C. 
In neighbouring Spain, temperatures in the southern cities of Seville and Cordoba topped 41C. Three elderly women in the region died from the effects of the heat, bringing the country’s total to 14. 

In other parts of Europe: 

Five deaths in Germany were blamed on the heat, which topped 40C in some places Mines left behind after the Bosnian war stopped firefighters battling a three-day-old blaze near Mostar Fifty-four of France’s 98 departments have requested state aid for drought-hit farmers Power cuts were imposed in Italy amid soaring demand Polish firefighters battled 35 forest blazes and said there was serious fire risk in about a quarter of the country’s woodlands Amsterdam highs edged towards 30C, prompting zoo officials to spray ostriches with cold water and feed iced fruit to chimpanzees Rail speed restrictions imposed in case tracks buckled in the heat were causing chaos and cancellations for UK rail travellers. 
There have been similar scenes in France, where this summer has been declared the hottest since World War II. 
“The current heat is totally exceptional – even for August,” Dominique Escale of France’s national weather service Meteo France, said. 
In the capital, Paris, residents have been taking to public fountains to cool off or seeking shelter in the shade of the Eiffel Tower. 
With pollution levels in the city being exacerbated by the searing heat police have been forced to impose stringent traffic speed restrictions. 
Slovenian temperatures are at their highest for a century and in Germany a record night-time high was registered on Monday. 
Source: BBC


Portugal fires destroy vast area
05 August 2003 

Forest fires are continuing to burn across Portugal, despite the efforts of thousands of firefighters to contain the flames. Nine people have died, and more than 53,000 hectares of land have been destroyed so far in the fires, some of which have been burning for more than a week. The Portuguese Government has declared a national calamity – opening the way to those who have lost property to claim for compensation. The Portuguese firefighters’ association has called on the government to go a step further and declare a national emergency. Strong winds and record high temperatures have fanned the flames, while the dense smoke has limited the use of water-bombing aircraft. Woman is rescued from forest fires. The BBC’s Claire Marshall, in Porto Alegre, says 3,000 firefighters are continuing to do what they can to contain the blazes but many are exhausted. One local villager involved in fighting the blazes told the BBC that no-one had seen fires like this in living memory. Water-carrying planes sent by Italy, Morocco and Spain have dumped hundreds of tonnes of water onto the forests. It seems as if they are helping at least to contain the worst fires, our correspondent adds. “We are facing an exceptional situation,” Prime Minister Jose Durao Barroso said after an emergency Cabinet meeting. “It’s been brought about by absolutely exceptional weather conditions, so we have to respond with exceptional measures.” The government has pledged more than 110m euros ($124m) in aid for people who have lost their jobs and homes, for farmers who have lost crops and livestock and for local councils to rebuild infrastructure.  Across the border in Spain, the death toll in the extreme heat rose to seven over the weekend. The victims are thought to have died from the effects of the heat. Temperatures in the southern region of Andalucia have risen above 40C (104F), with some towns recording their highest-ever temperatures. Forest fires have continued to burn in Extremadura, a remote region to the north which borders Portugal.
In other parts of Western Europe:

* Technicians doused the Fessenheim nuclear power station near Strasbourg, France, with cold water to prevent it overheating
* Police in the Ile de France region around Paris lowered speed limits from 50 km/h (30 mph) to 30 km/h because of ozone levels in the capital 65% above levels considered safe for humans
* Rail speed restrictions were imposed in the UK amid fears that tracks might buckle in the heat, as weather officials said midweek temperatures could surpass the country’s record of 37.1C (98.8F).
* This year’s wheat harvest in the Czech Republic, already hit by poor winter weather, was predicted to plummet to 2.7m tonnes – down from nearly 4m tonnes last year.

Despite the severity of the fires, the Portuguese prime minister rejected calls for the government to declare a national emergency, noting that emergency plans were in place in the three districts where the worst of the fires were concentrated. Officials say it is impossible to estimate how many homes have burned down. Portugal has also activated a European Union civil defence mechanism aimed at prompting rapid action by member states to supply manpower and equipment. 

Source: BBC 

Forest fires near Athens
04 August 2003

(AP) On Monday a forest fire in Greece close to the capital Athens destroyed  approximately 4.8 hectares forest land. According to authority data the fire which had already approached  a populated area could be brought under control with a water helicopter. In the evening firefighters in Nea Makri contained a second fire northeast from Athens.

Source: Yahoo Nachrichten

Portugal to declare fire ‘calamity’
04 August 2003  by Alison Roberts In Lisbon

Portugal’s Prime Minister has said his government will formally declare the forest fires raging across the country a public calamity, paving the way for compensation for those who have lost homes and other property. The fires have claimed nine lives in the past few days and destroyed thousands of hectares of forest. Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso made the pledge to declare the fires a public calamity after talking to national fire chiefs on Sunday. The measure is to be approved at an extraordinary cabinet meeting on Monday. But the prime minister again rejected calls for the government to declare a national emergency, noting that emergency plans were in place in the three districts where the worst of the fires were concentrated. Fires are still burning in 15 of the country’s 18 districts and some are still out of control. Officials say it is impossible to estimate how many homes have burned down. With local fire brigades struggling to cope, Portugal has requested help from outside. Two firefighting planes from Italy and five from Morocco came into action on Sunday. Spain, where some of the fires started, also has firefighters helping their Portuguese colleagues. Portugal has also activated a European Union civil defence mechanism aimed at prompting rapid action by member states to supply manpower and equipment

Source: BBC News

Portugal declares fire desaster
04 August 2003

Nine people have been killed in Portugal in the last week as a heatwave continues in Europe from Russia to the Iberian Peninsula to Britain. The heat has killed at least 12 people in Spain and Germany and threatens to break national temperature records in France and Britain. Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso said the declaration of a national disaster, approved by the cabinet on Monday, would make more than 100 million euros ($113 million) available in disaster aid. “The situation the country is facing is exceptional, caused by absolutely exceptional climatic conditions,” he said. “That is why we have to act with exceptional measures.” Durao Barroso said Portugal would also seek disaster relief funding from the European Union. More than 2,300 firefighters, mostly volunteers, were tackling 72 blazes in Portugal, which is about one-third forest. Firefighters in Semideiro, a town of 1,500 people about 100 km (65 miles) northeast of Lisbon, battled to keep flames from a blazing pine forest away from houses. With afternoon temperatures reaching 40 C (104 F), they hoped a southerly wind would hold. “If the wind shifts from the south and changes to the north there could be a tragedy, since many towns are at risk,” firefighter Manuel Policarpo told Reuters. Fires in Spain’s Extremadura region, which borders Portugal, and the province of Avila forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes. In Spain’s southern region of Andalucia, seven people have died from the heatwave since Thursday, a spokeswoman for the regional health service said. Most were elderly. Temperatures in the high 30s C (upper 90s F) caused five deaths in the northern German town of Holzminden over the weekend. Construction work on a soccer stadium in Munich was halted on Monday because engineers feared temperatures reaching 36 C (96.8 F) could cause cracks in the structure. In the eastern state of Brandenburg, about 30 hectares (74 acres) of forest were ablaze 60 km (37 miles) south of Berlin, forcing closure of a national road. In France, a spokeswoman for the state weather office said temperatures this week were expected to near the national record of 44 C (111.2 F) set in 1923. In Britain, temperatures threatened to top the 37.1 C (98.8 F) all-time high. Britain’s rail network slapped speed restrictions on a wide range of lines due to risk of rails buckling and warned of extended journey times. Speed limits were cut to 60 miles per hour (100 km) from the more usual 90 or 120 miles per hour and could go even lower. Some 431 fires were raging in Russia. Heavy rain has tamed blazes that devastated swathes of Siberia and the Russian Far East. Firefighters in Croatia battled fires on the Adriatic islands of Brac, Hvar and Bisevo, where temperatures reached 37 C (98.6 F). Blazes have burned an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 hectares (12,500 to 15,000 acres) of pine forests, olive groves and scrubland in southern Croatia since last week. 
Source: BBC News

For more information look at the media page:  
Media Highlights on Fire, Policies, and Politics

For fire statistics of France : See GFMC statistics page for France:



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