Europe struggles with major wildfires and energy uncertainty amid ‘heat apocalypse’

An intense heat wave has gripped much of Europe, with scorching heat, buckling roads, raging fires and hundreds of people dead -- and forecasts predict even more unbearable weather to come. Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports on the worst European heat wave in years.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    Well, scorching heat, buckling roads, raging fires, and hundreds dead already. An intense heat wave has gripped much of Europe.

    Today, in the town of Nantes, France, a reading of 107.6 Fahrenheit. Temperatures touched 100 in the U.K. Paris, London and Rome inched closer to 100. Madrid was 102. It is the worst heat wave in years.

    And, as special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports, most of Europe cannot cope.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    It's Sunday afternoon in the English Channel. We're just off Dover. We have just left. And before we got on the ship, the temperature was a very pleasant 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

    But we're just racing ahead of a North African weather system, which is sweeping north, and which is going to send temperatures in Britain this week to a record-breaking 104 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a red warning. Normally in, Britain, people like a little bit of sunshine, but this sort of temperature could kill people.

    The British reputation for keeping cool and carrying on evaporated in tropical temperatures. Trafalgar Square became a spa for the day.

  • Reiner Can Den Heurel, Tourist:

    Well, you walk from shadow to shadow. So, anywhere that you have to stay in the sun for a long time, that's off-limits. So, we will have to deal with sticking in places, like we are now, as opposed to walking next to the Thames or any places like that.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    Although the mercury didn't reach predicted heights, it was brutal enough for the British. Infrastructure wilted.

    The Farnborough Airshow coped with the heat.

  • Person:

    It is hot.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    But runways at a military base and a main tourist airport melted and flights were suspended.

    But beneath their bear skins, ceremonial soldiers maintained the composure expected of a cold stream guard. On the European mainland close to the Mediterranean, wildfires raged out of control, causing thousands to flee their homes. The situation has been dire in Spain and Portugal, where more than 1,000 people have died from the summer heat, not the flames.

  • Firefighter Pedro Jose Vara:

  • Pedro Jose Vara, Firefighter (through translator):

    We are scared. There's a tomato plantation over there. If the wind changes this way, it burns down my parents' house. If it changes that way, it burns down my wife's work. That's practically what we live on.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    As the French headed to their beaches in droves, experts were warning of a heat apocalypse. According to latest reports, several hundred people have died in France. Fears about fatalities cross the border to Germany.

    It's just after lunchtime. I'm in Northern Germany heading for a ferry to take me to Denmark. And ahead of the heat wave, The temperature for most of the day has been around about 77 degrees Fahrenheit. But, tomorrow, there is a heat warning for this region of Germany. The big news out of the country today is that, at a climate conference, scientists have warned that the world is facing catastrophe because it's just not going to meet the targets to keep temperature rise down to 1.5 degrees Centigrade.

    In fact, they're predicting it'll be 3 degrees centigrade. At the conference, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had this warning:

  • Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General:

    Half of humanity is in the danger zone from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires. No nation is immune. Yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    And Germany's foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, warned that Russia's invasion of Ukraine was exacerbating the climate crisis.

  • Annalena Baerbock, German Foreign Minister:

    Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine is accelerating a global energy and food crisis that is pushing millions into poverty, hunger and starvation.

    And while we are still grappling with the fallout from the pandemic, the impacts of climate change are becoming even more dangerous across the world.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    As I headed further north on the ferry to Denmark, the temperatures cooled. The ship had a hybrid power system, using electric batteries to reduce reliance on traditional diesel engines. It's an effort to curb climate change, but it's just not enough.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Malcolm Brabant in Denmark.

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