Heat, fires keep their grip on Southern Europe
Stifling heat kept its grip on much of Southern Europe on Thursday, driving people indoors at midday, spoiling crops, triggering drinking water restrictions, turning public libraries into cooling “climate shelters” and complicating the already difficult challenge firefighters faced battling wildfires. In many places, forecasters said worse was expected to come. The surge in temperatures, due to a mass of hot, dry air from Africa, is expected to ease starting on Monday.
Temperatures also up in North Africa
While much attention has focused on southern Europe’s heat crisis, it was even hotter on the North African shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Temperatures hit 500C in Tunisia, a record high for the country. The last previous high was 48.20C in 1968. In Algeria, most of the regions of the north of the country have been placed on alert for heat waves. Fires ravaging mountain forests and villages in Algeria’s Berber region have killed at least 65 people, including 28 soldiers. Blazes have devoured forest and brush areas in Greece and southern Italy for days.
Siberian fire at unprecedented level
The fire that has raged for weeks in northeastern Siberia has reached an unprecedented level, with flames ravaging a territory equal to all other fires in the world combined. Greenpeace Russia has told Moscow Times that fires could become the largest in the recorded history of the planet.
Nine EU countries call for stop to exploitation of migrants
Interior ministers from nine EU member states have written to the European Commission asking it to reassess its approach to ‘the emerging exploitation of migrants for political purposes’, a ‘trend that must be reversed’, they say. The news, reported in Politico Playbook, is confirmed by the Community Executive, which said it would ‘respond in due time’ and will address the issue at the videoconference of interior ministers on Wednesday 18 August. The letter, dated 9 August, is signed by the leaders of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Greece, Lithuania and the Netherlands.
96% increase in migrant arrivals in the Med
Frontex estimates show that between January and July, there was a 96% increase in migrant arrivals on the Central Mediterranean route, compared to the same period in 2020. In July, 7,600 border crossings were recorded, roughly in line with July 2020. This brings the total for the first seven months to 30,800. In Europe, the number of arrivals, in the first seven months of 2021, exceeded 82,000, 59% more than in 2020. In July, arrivals were 17,300, 33% more than in July 2020, and those on the Central Mediterranean route accounted for the highest altitude.
Taliban capture Helmand capital
The Taliban have captured Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, after allowing the army and political and administrative officials to evacuate the city. The announcements came a day after Taliban captured Afghanistan’s third-largest city of Herat, as well as Ghazni, a strategic provincial capital near Kabul, further squeezing the country’s embattled government. Meanwhile, the US and UK governments are to send thousands of troops to Afghanistan to help their nationals still in the country. The UK is to send around 600 troops while the US is to send additional troops to help evacuate personnel from the embassy in Kabul. They called on Americans in Afghanistan to leave the country immediately.
Trudeau to call snap election on Sunday
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is planning to call a snap election for September 20 – two years ahead of schedule. He intends to make the formal announcement this Sunday. Trudeau has only a minority government and relies on opposition parties to push legislation through. Liberals racked up record levels of debt as they spent heavily to protect the economy from COVID-19.