IFRC warns intensifying heatwave in Europe could have tragic consequences

IFRC warns intensifying heatwave in Europe could have tragic consequences
14 July 2022

By the IFRC

(This story is an IFRC press release issued earlier today in Budapest.)

Extreme temperatures have spiralled into dangerous heatwaves and wildfires across Europe, the IFRC said today, urging cities and communities to prepare to avoid a further disaster.

Since May, Europe has been among the most intense heatwave hotspots in the world; forecasts show no sign of the current heatwave abating.

Many parts of western Europe are experiencing extreme temperatures and countries like Portugal are battling raging wildfires, impacting thousands of people.

“With the climate crisis, this heat is part of our ‘new normal’,” says Maarten Aalst van, director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. “These deadly events are now more frequent and more intense.”

Cascading impacts

In the past ten years, climate- and weather-related disasters have killed more than 400,000 people, affected 1.7 billion others and displaced an average of 25 million people each year worldwide.

Those most at risk from heatwaves include the elderly, children, pregnant women, and people with pre-existing health conditions.

Heatwaves have cascading impacts in other areas of society, such as reduced economic output, strained health systems and rolling power outages.

Staff and volunteers from National Societies across the region are supporting communities preparing for and impacted by the heatwaves.

At the same time, teams are responding to the devastating wildfires, most notably in Portugal but also Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

‘Simple measures’

“Many have had to evacuate their homes with the few things they can carry,” says Ana Jorge, president of the Portuguese Red Cross.

“Our medical teams are focused on ensuring people are getting to safety, providing critical health care to those suffering from burns and other injuries, and providing them with a bed and necessities as they decide their next steps.”

With heatwaves becoming more likely around the world as the climate crisis worsens, more preparedness and early warning systems are required to reduce and manage the risks.

“People are not always aware of the dangers of heat. But when communities understand the risks and take simple measures to prepare for it, they can prevent unnecessary tragedies,” says Van Aalst.

“We urge cities and communities to prepare and take the necessary steps to save lives, now and in the long term.”

The French fire service said yesterday it was facing “constant operational pressure” with multiple wildfires, like this one in Gironde department, breaking out in the south and south-west, but also recently in the Eure and Oise departments in the north. (Photo: @pompiersFR via Twitter)