This is the terrifying moment passengers on board a train out of Madrid found themselves surrounded by flames this morning as dozens of out-of-control wildfires burn across Spain amidst Europe’s ‘heat apocalypse’.
Francisco Seoane Pérez, an expert in political communication riding the 9.30am train to Ferrol, captured the astonishing scenes as the train passed the town of Senabria on Monday morning.
Mr Pérez described ‘moments of panic’ as the train came to a halt in the midst of the Zamora wildfire, with flames advancing rapidly on both sides of the track. Footage recorded on his smartphone shows the blaze ripping through grassland just a few feet away, as people can be heard saying: ‘He is stopping… what is he doing?’
Speaking to El Diario, Mr Perez said the train was stopped for only a few moments before driving slowly out of danger – but passengers were ‘very afraid’ because of the speed of the advancing fire. ‘When you stopped looking out one window to look out the other, the fire had already moved,’ he said. The line was closed a short time later.
Temperatures in Spain are widely above 104F (40C) today and have remained high for at least a week, leaving virtually the entire country under a warning for ‘extreme danger’ of fires. There were 36 blazes burning as-of Monday morning including 24 which were out of control.
More than 1,000 people have died across Spain and Portugal – which has also suffered temperatures up to 116F and wildfires – in the heatwave, though most died as a result of heat stress. At least one 62-year-old firefighter has died in Spain after getting trapped in flames, while a 69-year-old shepherd also burned to death.
Meanwhile temperature records are tumbling in France, with dozens of cities recording their hottest day ever: Brest hit 35.8C (96F) by midday, beating a previous record set in 1949, while Nantes hit 40.5C (105F). Landes forest, near Bordeaux, could see 44C (111F) today.
Bordeaux has also been hit hard by wildfires, with two ‘monster’ blazes raging today that had forced the evacuation of 11,500 people. Firefighters ordered 3,500 people out of their homes in villages west of Langon early Monday, before another 8,000 people were ‘preventatively’ evacuated from La Teste-de-Buch later in the day.
Some relief will come later today when a sudden easterly wind – known as a Galerne – will sweep on-shore, causing temperatures to plunge by 20C in just one hour between 5pm and 6pm local time. However, strong winds are likely to whip up the wildfire and produce more havoc for rescue crews.
Terrified passengers on board a train from Madrid to Ferrol found themselves caught in the middle of a wildfire around 9.30am while passing through the city of Senabria
A firefighting helicopter descends towards a swimming pool in the town of Avila, Spain, to collect water and dump it on a nearby wildfire as the country suffers through a crippling heatwave
A helicopter drops water gathered from a nearby swimming pool on to a blaze in Avila, Spain. There are 36 fires burning across the country today, two dozen of which are out of control
A shepherd watches a fire burning a wheat field between Tabara and Losacio in Zamora, northern Spain, where a train full of passengers was surrounded by fire today
A fire brigade crew attend the scene as a wildfire burns near Tabara, Zamora, on the second heatwave of the year, in Spain
A firefighter from the Brigadas de Refuerzo en Incendios Forestales (BRIF) reacts as the fire reaches near Tabara, Zamora, on the second heatwave of the year, in Spain, July 18
Another firefighter from the BRIF tackles a fire in a wheat field in Tabara in Spain. Virtually the entire country is under a warning for ‘extreme danger’ of fires
Flames burn through wood and grassland in Cebreros, Spain, where hundreds of firefighters are battling dozens of blazes that have killed at least two people with a third missing
Spain is burning following days of high temperatures – widely above 40C (104F) today – amidst a heatwave that has swept across western Europe over the last week
A man walks amidst burning fields in Tabara and Losacio, northern Spain, which has been ravaged by wildfire in recent days
A local man helps firefighters to tamp down a grass blaze in Tabara and Losacio, northern Spain, which has burned through thousands of acres of field and woodland
In recent days, unusually high temperatures have gripped swaths of Europe, triggering wildfires from Portugal to the Balkan region. Some countries are also experiencing extended droughts.
Climate change makes such life-threatening extremes less of a rarity – and has brought heat waves even to the UK, which braced for possibly record-breaking temperatures.
The hot weather in the UK was expected to be so severe this week that train operators warned it could warp the rails and some schools set up wading pools to help children cool off.
French forecasters also warned of possible record temperatures as swirling hot winds complicated firefighting efforts in the country’s southwest.
A firefighter takes position at a forest fire near Louchats, some 35kms from Landiras in Gironde, southwestern France on July 18 as the wildfires spread
Firefighters in Gironde, south-western France, are battling a ‘monster’ blaze which has already ripped through 14,000 acres and is set to intensify today as temperatures hit 44C in the region
Flames torch a forest in Gironde, southern France, where firefighters are trying to contain a blaze described as the worst the region has seen for at least three decades
A tactical firefighter set fires to burn a plot of land as firefighters attempt to prevent the wild fire from spreading due to wind change, as they fight a forest fire near Louchats in Gironde, southwestern France
Firefighters stand on a road as heavy smoke is seen in the background during forest fires near the city of Origne, south-western France
A firefighter takes position as smoke rises from a forest fire near Louchats. In Gironde, flames ravaged more than 15.000 hectares of forests since it is started on July 12
A water-bombing plane drops its cargo on a wildfire burning in Avila, around 50 miles west of Madrid, on Monday
A deserted play area is pictured at Grenfell Park in Maidenhead, temperatures have topped 38C in the heatwave, as train services are cut, schools closed and ambulance crews face rising numbers of 999 calls
Large parts of southern and western Europe are now under ‘extreme danger’ fire warnings, based on EU emergency management data, while some parts of Spain and Portugal are under the most-severe ‘very extreme danger’ warning
NASA satellite data shows wildfires that have started in Europe over the last seven days, with Portugal, Spain and France all seeing higher-than-usual numbers due to freak temperatures
‘The fire is literally exploding,’ said Marc Vermeulen, the regional fire service chief who described tree trunks shattering as flames consumed them, sending burning embers into the air and further spreading the blazes.
‘We’re facing extreme and exceptional circumstances,’ he said.
Authorities started evacuating more towns, moving another 11,500 people from areas at risk of finding themselves in the path of the fires and their thick clouds of choking smoke.
That will take the number of people who have been forced out of their homes in the Gironde region to nearly 28,000 since the wildfires began July 12.
Three additional planes were sent to join six others already fighting the fires, scooping up seawater into their tanks and making repeated runs through dense clouds of smoke, the Interior Ministry said Sunday night.
More than 200 reinforcements headed to join the 1,500-strong force of firefighters battling night and day to contain the blazes in the Gironde, where flames neared prized vineyards and the Arcachon maritime basin famed for its oysters and beaches.
A Spanish firefighter weeps in the Losacio region after one of his colleagues was killed fighting a wildfire, which can be seen raging behind him with smoke pouring into the sky
A smoke column emerges from a forest fire in O Barco de Valdeorras in northwestern Spain, as two dozen fires burn out of control across the country, with temperatures widely in excess of 104F (40C)
Firefighters near Barcelona, Spain, carry out controlled burnings of tinder-dry undergrowth in an attempt to stop larger wildfires from damaging homes and cities
Spanish firefighters work to extinguish a blaze in O Barco de Valdeorras, in northwestern Spain, around 60 miles from where a fellow fireman was burned to death late Sunday by an out-of-control wildfire
Spain, meanwhile, reported a second fatality in two days as it battled its own blazes. The body of a 69-year-old sheep farmer was found Monday in the same hilly area where a 62-year-old firefighter died a day earlier when he was trapped by flames in the northwestern Zamora province.
More than 30 forest fires around Spain have forced the evacuation of thousands of people and blackened 220 square kilometers (85 square miles) of forest and scrub.
Climate scientists say heat waves are more intense, more frequent and longer because of climate change – and coupled with droughts have made wildfires harder to fight.
They say climate change will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.
‘Climate change kills,’ Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Monday during a visit to the Extremadura region, where firefighters tackled three major blazes. ‘It kills people, it kills our ecosystems and biodiversity.’
Teresa Ribera, Spain’s minister for ecological transition, described her country as ‘literally under fire’ as she attended talks on climate change in Berlin.
Flames light up pine trees in Louchats, south-west France, where temperatures are expected to break all-time records as they soar to 44C (111F) today
A firefighter in Gironde carries out a controlled burning as he tried to stop the spread of a nearby wildfire that has been burning out of control for more than a week
A firefighter in Gironde wanders through a burning pine forest as record-breaking temperatures turn parts of southern France into a giant tinder-box
Firemen in southern France carry out tactical burnings of tinder-dry woodland in an attempt to stop a nearby wildfire from spreading, after it torched 14,000 acres of forest in six days
Strong winds and record-breaking temperatures have combined to produce a ‘monster’ fire in southern France which has devastated woodland near Gironde (pictured)
Firefighters from the Brigadas de Refuerzo en Incendios Forestales prepare hosepipes to tackle a forest fire in Cebreros
Firefighters from the Brigadas de Refuerzo en Incendios Forestales water burned trees to tackle a forest fire in Cebrerod
Firefighters from the Brigadas de Refuerzo en Incendios Forestales walk past a burned forest during a forest fire in Cebreros
She warned of ‘terrifying prospects still for the days to come’ – after more than 10 days of temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), cooling only moderately at night.
According to Spain’s Carlos III Institute, which records daily temperature-related fatalities, 237 deaths were attributed to high temperatures from July 10 to 14. That was compared to 25 heat-related deaths the previous week.
The heat wave in Spain is forecast to ease on Tuesday, but the respite will be brief as temperatures rise again on Wednesday, especially in the dry western Extremadura region.
In Britain, officials have issued the first-ever extreme heat warning, and the weather service forecast that the record high of 38.7 C (101.7 F), set in 2019, could be shattered.
‘Forty-one isn’t off the cards,’ said Met Office CEO Penelope Endersby. ‘We’ve even got some 43s in the model, but we’re hoping it won’t be as high as that.’
The Balkans region has also seen sporadic wildfires, and is expecting the worst of the heat later this week.
Early on Monday, authorities in Slovenia said firefighters managed to bring one fire under control. Croatia sent a water-dropping plane there to help battle the flames after struggling last week with its own wildfires along the Adriatic Sea coast. A fire in Sibenik forced some people to evacuate their homes but was later extinguished.
In Portugal, much cooler weather Monday helped fire crews make progress against blazes. More than 600 firefighters attended four major fires in northern Portugal.
A local woman weeps while inspecting the damage to her home caused by a wildfire in O Barco de Valdeorras, Spain
The remains of a house destroyed in O Barco de Valdeorras, northern Spain, as the distraught owner returns to her home
Tactical firefighters set a fire to a plot of land to prevent the fire from spreading as the winds change in Louchats, south-western France, where temperature records could be broken today
A firefighter in southern France watches as woodland burns after he set a controlled fire in an attempt to stop a much larger wildfire nearby from spreading
A firefighter in southern France sets light to undergrowth and pine trees in an attempt to eat up tinder-dry vegetation and stop a nearby wildfire from spreading
A fire truck sprays water on a wildfire that has been burning in southern France for almost a week, consuming 14,000 acres of woodland in the process and forcing 16,000 people from their homes
The charred remains of a house that burned down in a wildfire are seen in O Barco de Valdeorras, northern Spain
A tree turned to burned ash is seen in O Barco de Valdeorras, northern Spain, where a number of fires are currently raging
A swimming pool evaporated from the heath of surrounding wildfires is seen in O Barco de Valdeorras, northern Spain
A burnt area near of the village O Barco de Valdeorras, Galicia, northwestern Spaim
Burned area are seen during a wildfire in El Pont de Vilomara, north of Barcelona, Spain
A dirt path divides a burned area of pine forest from trees which escaped the inferno after a wildfire torched areas of El Pont de Vilomara, north of Barcelona, Spain
Scorched trees following a forest fire in Cebreros in Avila, Spain, with dozens of wildfires raging across the country
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is due to visit the hard-hit eastern region of Extremadura on Monday where various fires have been raging for days.
In Portugal, almost the entire country remained on high alert for wildfires despite a slight drop in temperatures, after hitting 47C – a record for the month of July – on Thursday.
Only one major fire was burning on Sunday in the north.
The fires have killed two, injured around 60 and destroyed between 12,000 and 15,000 hectares of land in Portugal.
In the United Kingdom, the weather office issued a first-ever ‘red’ warning for extreme heat, cautioning there was a ‘risk to life’.
The Met Office said temperatures in southern England could exceed 40C on Monday or Tuesday for the first time, leading some schools to say they would stay closed next week.
The mercury is set to reach 38C in parts of the Netherlands on Tuesday.
A woman cool off at a mist machine at the Paris Plage event during a heatwave in Paris, France
A man cools down with water hoses in the city of Cologne, western Germany, amid an extraordinary heatwave in Europe
A man douses his hat in water as he attempts to cool down amid a heatwave that is currently scorching Europe
Children cool off in a fountain in Nice as a heat wave hits France