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WEATHER

Forest fires rage in scorching France and Spain

A summer heatwave that has triggered devastating forest fires across southwest Europe showed no signs of abating Sunday, as parts of France and Spain readied for new temperature records early next week.

A plane flies near the smoke from a forest fire in Cazaux, France
A Canadair plane flies near the smoke from a fire near southwestern France's Cazaux, which was evacuated in the early afternoon of July 14, 2022. (Photo by THIBAUD MORITZ / AFP)

Firefighters in France and Spain are battling forest blazes that have ravaged thousands of hectares of land and forced scores from their homes since the start of the week.

It is the second heatwave engulfing parts of southwest Europe in weeks as scientists blame climate change and predict more frequent and intense episodes of extreme weather.

Firefighters in France’s southwestern Gironde region were fighting to control two forest blazes that have devoured nearly 11,000 hectares (27,000 acres) since Tuesday.

“It’s a Herculean job,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Olivier Chavatte from the fire and rescue service, which has 1,200 firefighters and five planes in action.

Further evacuation orders were given on Saturday for a few hundred residents, firefighter spokesman Arnaud Mendousse told AFP.

“Several fires are still active in France,” interior minister Gerald Darmanin said in a tweet.

“Our firefighters are fighting the flames with remarkable courage,” he added.

READ ALSO: Firefighters contain ‘mega-fire’ in southern France

Since Tuesday, more than 14,000 people — residents and tourists combined — have been forced to decamp with seven emergency shelters set up in order to receive evacuees.

Meteo France forecast temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of southern France on Sunday, as well as up to 35 in the northwest, with new heat records expected on Monday.
 
“The heat is intensifying. The heatwave is spreading across the country,” the weather office said.
 
France placed 37 departments, mainly down its Atlantic seaboard, on orange high alert on Sunday.
 
Authorities in the French Alps urged climbers bound for Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain, to postpone their trip due to repeated rock falls caused by “exceptional climatic conditions” and “drought”.
 
The call comes after a section of Italy’s biggest Alpine glacier gave way at the start of the month, killing 11 people — a disaster officials blamed on climate change.
 
Deaths
Spanish authorities reported around 20 wildfires still raging out of control in different parts of the country from the south to Galicia in the far northwest, where blazes have destroyed around 4,500 hectares of land.
 

“So sad to see part of our natural heritage ablaze,” tweeted Spain’s Economy Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Nadia Calvino.

Another fire burning in the Mijas mountain range inland from the southern coastal city of Malaga has so far destroyed about 2,000 hectares of land, local officials said.
 
The fire forced the evacuation of just over 3,000 people but around 2,000 people have since been allowed to return to their homes.
 
 
“We didn’t stop working all night,” regional agriculture minister Carmen Crespo told Spanish public television of efforts to quench the flames.
 
Spain’s national weather office, AEMET, forecast “significantly high” temperatures for most of mainland Spain and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean on Sunday.
 
The mercury was expected to hit 42C in the northern city of Logrono and 40C in Madrid and the southern city of Seville.
 
A 60-year-old street cleaner in Madrid died on Saturday after suffering heat stroke the day before while working, local officials said. 

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FOOD & DRINK

Moules-frites in danger: Spider crabs wreak havoc on French mussel population

Warming sea temperatures are bringing more spider crabs to France's coastline, which could spell disaster for the French mussel industry.

Moules-frites in danger: Spider crabs wreak havoc on French mussel population

You may not be able to see it from land, but underwater, an invasive species of spider crabs are ravaging the mussel population on the Western coast of France.

In Normandy and Brittany, mussel farmers are struggling to control the expanding spider crab population – which normally migrates onward, but has stayed put on France’s coasts.

Experts believe the crabs, who feast on mussels and all manner of shellfish, have not continued in their migration due to warming water temperatures, as a result of the climate crisis.

This has left French mussel farmers worried that if the crab population is not controlled, then mussel production could end in the region within a decade. 

Some mussel farmers, like David Dubosco, have lost a significant amount of mussels in just the last year. Dubosco told TF1 that in 2022 he lost at least 150 tonnes.

(You can listen to The Local France team discuss the future of moules-frites in our new podcast episode below. Just press play or download it here for later.)

Dubosco is not alone in his experience. According to reporting by TF1, production across the board will be lower this year 2022, which means that the number of mussels imported from other countries will likely increase, a decision that will not be popular with French consumers who prefer homegrown mussels to make the classic moules-frites.

The proliferation of the spider crabs has been an ongoing problem for the last six years, but due to warming waters, more and more have stayed in French waters.

The crabs do not have many predators besides humans – as they are edible, but the supply has begun to outweigh demand. Additionally, the crabs have grown so big that traditional cages used to trap them are no longer effective, according to Actu France.

On September 21st, over 80 mussel producers staged a demonstration in front of the Manche préfecture in Saint-Lô to demand further measures against this invasive species.

“We have seen the proliferation of spider crabs and our alerts have gone unheeded by the administrative authorities. The species comes to feed on our stocks,” said Vincent Godefroy, head of the “Group of mussel farmers on bouchot” (Groupement des mytiliculteurs sur bouchot) to Actu France. 

In response, the Manche prefecture met with six representatives from the group, eventually publishing a a statement saying it would allow “for the experimentation of new measures” to combat the crabs, which would include dragging them out to sea.

Additionally, government actors and mussel farmers will work together this autumn to conduct a study on the economic value of spider crabs with goals of building up a new industry. The assessment will be made in November.

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