Ongoing Situational Report: Heatwaves and Wildfires in Europe

Written by Akshat Sharma

July 25, 2022

Travel

Travel Risk: MEDIUM

Brief introduction to the situation
European nations are currently experiencing an unprecedented rise in temperature due to climate change, leading to consequent high-risk situations in multiple countries. All around Europe, temperatures have and continue to rise over 40°C.
Southern Europe recently got plagued with wildfires, which may make their way towards northern European countries such as the United Kingdom

What has led to such high temperatures?
Since temperatures now are generally 1.1C higher than in the late 19th century, global warming plays a significant role in heat waves around the world as emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases have increased. 
Depending on the region, several variables might contribute to high temperatures. A band of upper-level low-pressure air that has been stationary off the coast of Portugal for days contributed to the sweltering temperatures that reached England and Wales on 18 July. A low-pressure area has been luring air from North Africa towards Southern Europe.

Why are wildfires happening?
A particularly dry and hot spring that dried out the soil caused an early fire season that affected most of Europe. Authorities claim that climate change is responsible for this. They say that the flames are being fueled by dry conditions in some areas and unusually early hot temperatures in other parts of the continent. 
Proper climatic conditions, inflammable fuels, and a spark are all it takes for triggering a wildfire. Plants lose moisture as a result of rising temperatures, producing excess dry fuel. When a fire spreads through a region of forest, drought and extreme heat can kill plants, dry out dead grass, and destroy other material on the forest floor. While dry vegetation is the combustible material used to start fires, the spark is usually brought on by lightning, an accident, or
negligence.

Is it Safe to Travel to Europe?
It is generally safe to travel to European nations. However, the security risk in certain countries like Greece, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom is severe as the dry heat waves make the regions prone to wildfires. Travellers can be severely affected by spontaneous wildfires and subsequent evacuation orders by local authorities. The most serious concerns are heatstroke and heat exhaustion, which can even be fatal, especially for the elderly and those who regularly work in hot environments. Without prompt emergency care, heatstroke (which happens when the body can no longer regulate its temperature) can cause organ and brain damage. High temperatures worsen respiratory conditions like asthma since they decrease air circulation, and increase air pollution. Spain and Portugal have reported over 1000 heat-related deaths. Uniquely high temperatures are a significant problem in northern Europe, where the majority of homes are constructed to retain heat to be able to tolerate the winter. Cities not designed to handle high temperatures frequently lack the emergency response capabilities or cooling facilities necessary to protect the most vulnerable citizens.

Assessment
Travellers are advised to ensure access to adequate shelter, emergency assistance, and other essential services (such as water) at all times to minimize safety and security risks. Avoid outside activities such as barbecues or smoking that can trigger wildfires in your region. Create a 30-foot-radius fire-resistant zone away from your home that is clear of all debris, leaves, and flammable materials.
Utilize public relief services such as free water points in London, and free-of-charge air-conditioned public places in France. Opt for hotels, residencies or resorts that offer emergency assistance as well as travel to hospitals during sensitive situations. 
Governments and public offices are advised to plan out relevant legislation to combat heatwaves in the future. More trees must be planted in urban areas, residences must be built to withstand extreme heat, structures must be retrofitted, and effective early warning systems must be put in place.
Travellers are advised to be vigilant and have methods to receive real-time information and stay informed about security alerts in their respective regions. 

Conclusion 
The travel risk to European countries such as Spain, Portugal, Greece, France and the United Kingdom is currently MEDIUM. Travellers are advised to exercise increased caution when travelling to the affected regions and always follow the advice of the local authorities at all times.

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