One dead as Spain is swept by high winds: Festival stage collapses leaving another 20 hurt in more extreme weather on the continent after ‘apocalyptic’ wildfires in France and warnings of worst drought in 500 years
- A 28-year-old reveller has been killed and another 20 after 40mph winds blasted through a Spanish festival
- Organisers have suspended the Medusa Festival in Cullera south of Valencia following 4am sandstorm
- The gusts brought down several heavy metallic structures, including the entrance billboard
- It comes as the worst drought to hit Europe in half a millennium wreaks havoc across the mainland
A 28-year-old reveller has been killed and another 20 are injured after heavy 40mph winds brought down part of the stage at a Spanish music festival – as wildfires and droughts sweep Europe in the Continent’s worst climate crisis in 500 years.
Organisers have suspended the Medusa Festival, a huge five-day electronic music festival held over six days in the east coast town of Cullera south of Valencia whose headline acts this year included French DJ David Guetta, in the aftermath of the horrific 4am sandstorm.
The gusts brought down several heavy metallic structures, including the entrance billboard, and killed one man and several revellers.
Of the injured, at least three suffered serious trauma injuries and the rest had more minor injuries, regional emergency services tweeted.
It comes as the worst drought to hit Europe in half a millennium wreaks havoc across the mainland, leaving rivers and lakes dusty and dry and causing huge wildfires.
Europe’s western, central and southern regions have experienced no significant rainfall in two months and it’s showing. Major arteries like the Danube, the Rhine and the Po rivers have seen falling water levels and reservoirs in Spain, once filled with water, are now dry and cracked.
In France, which is enduring its worst drought on record, flames raged through pine forests overnight, illuminating the sky with an intense orange light in the Gironde region, which was already ravaged by flames last month, and in neighboring Landes. More than 26 square miles have burned since Tuesday.
CULLERA: A horrific sandstorm swept through the Medusa Festival, killing one reveller and injuring several others
CULLERA: The main stage of the Medusa Music Festival after part of it collapsed today due to strong winds
CULLERA: The back of the main stage of the Medusa Music Festival after gusts blew part of it down
FRANCE: Firefighters battling a wildfire near Hostens yesterday, as wildfires continue to spread in the Gironde region
FRANCE: Firefighter trucks drive by burning pine trees near Saint-Magne on Thursday
FRANCE: A view shows trees and vegetation burnt by a major fire in Hostens yesterday
FRANCE: Firefighters working to contain a fire in Hostens yesterday
FRANCE: A firefighting truck works to contain a fire in Saint-Magne on Thursday
FRANCE: German firefighters working to contain a fire in Hostens yesterday
FRANCE: The water level in the Loire is at its lowest in one of the river’s branches
FRANCE: Restrictions on the use of drinking water have been put in place as water levels in the Loire plunge
FRANCE: The water level in the Loire is at its lowest in one of the river’s branches
GERMANY: The river Rhine is pictured with low water in Cologne
UK: Members of the public stand on what was an ancient packhorse bridge exposed by low water levels at Baitings Reservoir
UK: Dry grass covers a parched Primrose Hill as a drought is declared in parts of England
FRANCE: The Tille River in the village of Lux has completely dried out, leaving behind a path of white dust
FRANCE: The sun beats down on the dried-up bed of the river Tille in Lux
FRANCE: A sign on a fence near the dried-up river Tille says ‘Swimming is Forbidden’ in Lux
PORTUGAL: Aerial view of a previously submerged village revealed by low water levels in Cabril dam reservoir in Pedrogao Grande
Europe’s weather crisis, country by country
Wildfires burning in at least four locations – the worst of which is in Gironde, where 10,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.
Country is also going through the worst drought in its history, with 100 villages now without drinking water.
Widespread drought has dropped the level of the Rhine river so far that it will soon become impassable to barges carrying coal, oil and goods.
Should the river become blocked it will cause huge economic damage. The last time that happened – in 2018 – the country narrowly avoided falling into recession.
The River Po, which runs across the affluent north, is dangerously low – threatening farms that rely on it to water their crops.
Stretches are so low that sunken ships are reemerging, and an old WW2 bomb was even uncovered and had to be defused.
Having suffered through a record heatwave in July, crucial reservoirs in Spain are now running close to empty – with weeks of summer left to go.
The Cijara reservoir, near Madrid, is around 84 per cent empty while the Vinuela reservoir in the arid south – near Malaga – is 87 per cent empty
A large wildfire is burning out of control in central Portugal, just weeks after dozens of blazes tore through the country during a 40C heatwave.
A glacial mountain pass, covered in ice for the last 2,000 years, will become ice-free in the next few days – the first time since the Romans were conquering Europe that it will have been fully exposed.
Along the Oder River, which flows from Czechia north into the Baltic Sea, volunteers have been collecting dead fish that have washed ashore in Poland and Germany.
Piotr Nieznanski, the conservation policy director at WWF Poland, said it appears that a toxic chemical was released into the water by an industry and the low water levels caused by the drought has made conditions far more dangerous for the fish.
‘A tragic event is happening along the Oder River, an international river, and there is no transparent information about what is going on,’ he said, calling on government authorities to investigate.
People living along the river have been warned not to swim in the water or even touch it.
Poland’s state water management body said the drought and high temperatures can cause even small amounts of pollution to lead to an ecological disaster but it has not identified the source of the pollution.
In northern Serbia, the dry bed of the Conopljankso reservoir is now littered with dead fish that were unable to survive the drought.
The water level along Germany’s Rhine River was at risk of falling so low that it could become difficult to transport goods – including critical energy items like coal and gasoline.
Italy’s worst drought in decades has reduced Lake Garda, the country’s largest lake, to near its lowest level ever recorded, exposing swaths of previously underwater rocks and warming the water to temperatures that approach the average in the Caribbean Sea.
Tourists flocking to the popular northern lake Friday for the start of Italy’s key summer long weekend found a vastly different landscape than in past years. An expansive stretch of bleached rock extended far from the normal shoreline, ringing the southern Sirmione Peninsula with a yellow halo between the green hues of the water and the trees on the shore.
‘We came last year, we liked it, and we came back this year,’ tourist Beatrice Masi said as she sat on the rocks. ‘We found the landscape had changed a lot. We were a bit shocked when we arrived because we had our usual walk around, and the water wasn’t there.’
Northern Italy hasn’t seen significant rainfall for months, and snowfall this year was down 70%, drying up important rivers like the Po, which flows across Italy’s agricultural and industrial heartland. Many European countries, including Spain, Germany, Portugal, France, the Netherlands and Britain, are enduring droughts this summer that have hurt farmers and shippers and promoted authorities to restrict water use.
The parched condition of the Po, Italy’s longest river, has already caused billions of euros in losses to farmers who normally rely on it to irrigate fields and rice paddies.
To compensate, authorities allowed more water from Lake Garda to flow out to local rivers – 70 cubic meters (2,472 cubic feet) of water per second. But in late July, they reduced the amount to protect the lake and the financially important tourism tied to it.
With 45 cubic meters (1,589 cubic feet) of water per second being diverted to rivers, the lake on Friday was 32 centimeters (12.6 inches) above the water table, near the record lows in 2003 and 2007.
Garda Mayor Davide Bedinelli said he had to protect both farmers and the tourist industry. He insisted that the summer tourist season was going better than expected, despite cancellations, mostly from German tourists, during Italy’s latest heat wave in late July.
‘Drought is a fact that we have to deal with this year, but the tourist season is in no danger,’ Bendinelli wrote in a July 20 Facebook post.
He confirmed the lake was losing two centimeters (.78 inches) of water a day.
The lake’s temperature, meanwhile, has been above average for August, according to seatemperature.org. On Friday, the Garda’s water was nearly 26 degrees Celsius (78 degrees Fahrenheit), several degrees warmer than the average August temperature of 22 C (71.6 F) and nearing the Caribbean Sea’s average of around 27 C (80 F).
For Mario Treccani, who owns a lakefront concession of beach chairs and umbrellas, the lake’s expanded shoreline means fewer people are renting his chairs since there are now plenty of rocks on which to sunbathe.
‘The lake is usually a meter or more than a meter higher,’ he said from the rocks.
GERMANY: An inland vessel navigates on the Rhine as the partially dried-up river bed is seen in the foreground in Duesseldorf
GERMANY: Birds stand on the long shore and the partially dried-up river bed of the Rhine in Duesseldorf
ITALY: Members of the Italian army remove a World War Two bomb that was discovered in the dried-up River Po
SPAIN: Tires lie on the cracked ground of La Vinuela reservoir during a severe drought in La Vinuela
ITALY: A person sits at a Po’s dry riverbed in Carmagnola near Turin
HUNGARY: Disused row boats are tied to a dried-out pier of Lake Velence at Pakozd
HUNGARY: A boat lays on the dried lake bed in a port in Velence, Hungary
ITALY: A woman takes pictures in the peninsula of Sirmione, on Garda lake
ITALY: A woman takes a roll on the peninsula of Sirmione, on Garda lake
FRANCE: A fire tornado is seen barrelling towards French firemen
FRANCE: A firefighting aircraft sprays fire retardant over trees during a wildfire near Saint-Magne on Thursday
FRANCE: Burning pine trees near Saint-Magne, southwestern France on Thursday
FRANCE: The ruins of a house destroyed by the fire which erupted in Belin-Beliet
FRANCE: The ruins of a house destroyed by the fire which erupted in Belin-Beliet, near Hostens
Europe is in the grips of sweltering heat, severe drought and raging wildfires that are tearing through Spain, France and Portugal, while key waterways such as the Rhine and the Po are running dry
How does a drought being declared affect Britons?
What does an official drought mean for the public?
A drought might not mean much in practical terms for people’s day-to-day lives immediately, but it gives water companies the freedom to implement certain stages of their emergency plans.
Level one of most drought plans might be as simple as asking the public to voluntarily cut down on their water use, followed by restricting non-essential usage via a hosepipe ban.
As the dry weather drags on, this can be extended to a non-essential use ban on activities such as filing a pond, cleaning non-domestic premises and vehicles such as boats, aircraft or trains.
In extreme scenarios, water firms can ask permission from the Environment Agency to abstract water from lakes and rivers, and disused boreholes.
How does climate change cause both drought and flooding in summer?
In 2021, bursts of heavy rain saw localised flooding, particularly in London, where some tube stations had to be evacuated.
Scientists warn that while climate change is likely to increase the intensity of summer rainfall, it won’t save us from future water shortages.
Prof Arnell sad: ‘As the atmosphere warms, it can hold more water, so if the conditions are triggered to generate a storm, that storm will have more water in it.
‘So the chance of having the intense sort of rainfall that we saw in London last year increases with climate change, but that’s sort of short duration one-off events which can happen during the dry period.’
He continued: ‘So the total rainfall will be less but it might be concentrated in short duration intense bursts, which will be problematic for all sorts of reasons – for short-term flooding risks and also for water resources as well.’
Will the taps run dry this year?
While rivers and reservoirs in some areas have plunged to some of the lowest levels on record, relatively high levels of ground water have so far prevented the need for tighter water restrictions.
Mr Hannaford said there had been a ‘pulse of replenishment’ of groundwater late last year, but warned in places, particularly the chalky ground of the South East, levels were declining sharply.
‘The important point is groundwater makes a very large part of the drinking water supply across south-east England,’ he said.
Professor Arnell said that in England and Wales, communities are unlikely to see the same levels of water restrictions seen during the heatwave of 1976.
He added: ‘(The water industry) is in a much better position than it was in 1976 because it has prepared drought plans there are measures that are organised and thought about in advance.’
What does the drought mean for the natural world?
The drought can have a devastating impact on wildlife, not just those trying to survive on tinder-dry land, but also those in freshwater and marine ecosystems as well.
Mr Hannaford said lower river flows and stagnant water leads to higher concentrations of pollutants, while dried up waterways means animals can lose access to their usual range of habitat.
‘You can get a lack of connection between those areas and that can have an impact on the life cycles of lots of aquatic organisms,’ he said.
Stagnant water also increases the likelihood of algal blooms that suck oxygen from the water, leaving fish and other fauna struggling to survive.
What will it take to get back to normal?
‘Thundery breakdown and showers’ are forecast for the early part of next week, but it is not yet clear how much rain we can expect, or where it will fall.
But scientists agree that it will take a lot more than average rainfall to rehydrate the nation.
A burst of heavy rain will often run straight off very dry ground, potentially causing flash flooding and not necessarily replenishing soil moisture in a meaningful way.
Mr Hannaford said it would require ‘exceptional’ rainfall over the next one to three months to bring river, reservoir and groundwater levels back up to normal.
Pointing to a small wall that usually blocks the water from the beach chairs, he recalled that on windy days, sometimes waves from the lake would splash up onto the tourists.
‘It is a bit sad. Before, you could hear the noise of the waves breaking up here. Now, you don’t hear anything,’ he said.
In France’s Burgundy region, in what was once the Tille River in the village of Lux, thousands of dead fish can be seen covering a wide trench of white dust.
Yesterday the UK officially declared a drought across southern and central England amid one of the hottest and driest summers on record.
Experts say the dry period will continue in what they describe as the worst drought in 500 years. Similar drought conditions are being reported in east Africa, the western US and northern Mexico amid climate change.
This week, the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre warned that drought conditions will worsen and potentially impact 47 per cent of the continent.
Andrea Toreti, a senior research at the European Drought Observatory said this year’s drought is ‘really worse’ than that of 2018.
‘We see still a very high risk of dry conditions over Western and Central Europe, as well as the UK,’ Toreti added, saying that this will continue for the next three months.
Back in France, Jean-Philippe Couasne, chief technician at the local Federation for Fishing and Protection of the Aquatic Environment said the Tille River, which sees 8,000 litres (2,100 gallons) of water per second flow, is now bone dry.
‘It’s heartbreaking,’ he said. ‘All fish will die. They are trapped upstream and downstream, there’s no water coming in, so the oxygen level will keep decreasing as the [water] volume goes down. These are species that will gradually disappear.’
Jean-Pierre Sonvico, regional head of the federation, said diverting the fish to other rivers is not an option because those waterways are also affected by the ongoing drought.
‘Yes, it’s dramatic because what can we do? Nothing,’ he said. ‘We’re waiting, hoping for storms with rain, but storms are very local so we can’t count on it.’
Elsewhere, shipping on Germany’s biggest waterway, the Rhine, is endangered as it is forecast to reach critically low levels in just days. Authorities say it could become difficult for large ships to navigate the river at the city of Kaub.
The picture is similar on the Danube river, with authorities have started dredging in a bid to keep boats moving.
In Switzerland, a drought and high temperatures have endangered fish populations and authorities have begun moving fish out of some creeks that were running dry.
In Hausen, in the canton of Zurich, officials caught hundreds of fish, many of them brown trout, in the almost dried-up Heischerbach, Juchbach and Muehlebach creeks this week by anesthetizing them with electric shocks and then immediately placing them in a water tank enriched with oxygen, local media reported. Later, the fish were taken to creeks that still carry enough water.
Despite all the harm caused by the extreme weather, Swiss authorities see one morbid upside: they believe there’s hope of finding some people who went missing in the mountains in the last few years because their bodies are being released as glaciers melt.
In the Swiss canton of Valais, melting glaciers have recently revealed parts of a crashed airplane and, at separate locations, at least two skeletons. The bodies have not yet been identified, news website 20Minuten reported Thursday.
In Hungary, parts of Lake Velence near Budapest have become unrecognisable patches of dried mud, leaving some small boats stranded.
Aeration and water circulation equipment was installed in a bid to protect the wildlife, but the water quality has deteriorated.
And on one beach in the region, a weekend swimming ban has been put in place.
Meanwhile on the Po, Italy’s longest river, barges and boats that sank decades ago are beginning to resurface.
Lake Garda, a hotspot for tourism in the country, has fallen to its lowest levels ever. Authorities recently released more water from the lake to help with irrigation, but soon stopped to protect the tourist season.
In England, the country experienced its driest July since 1935 last month, according to the Met Office.
The lack of rain has depleted reservoirs, rivers and groundwater and left grasslands brown across the UK.
Millions across the country were already forced to stop watering their lawns, and 15 million more around the capital in London will face a similar ban soon.
The situation is most dire for farmers in the UK, who face running out of irrigation water and having to use winter feed for their animals because of a lack of grass.
The Rivers Trust charity has said that England’s chalk streams, which allow underground springs to bubble up through a spongy layer of rock, are drying up, endangering the likes of kingfishers and trout.
Even countries such as Spain and Portugal, which are prepared for long periods without rain, have seen major consequences as a result of the drought.
In Andalucia, Spain, some avocado farmers have been forced to sacrifice hundreds of trees to save others from wilting as the Vinuela reservoir in Malaga dropped to 13 per cent capacity.
Some European farmers have had to resort to using water from the tap for their livestock, using up to 100 litres (26 gallons) a day per cow.
PORTUGAL: View of a burning area during a wildfire in Videmonte, Celorico da Beira on Thursday
PORTUGAL: View inside a burned house during a wildfire in Videmonte, Celorico da Beira
PORTUGAL: A firefighter looks at the aftermath of a wildfire in Videmonte, Celorico da Beira
PORTUGAL: A resident watches the progression of a wildfire in Linhares, Celorico da Beira
PORTUGAL: A tree burning on the inside is seen in front of a wildfire in Videmonte, Celorico da Beira
SWITZERLAND: The thick layer of ice that has covered a Swiss mountain pass between Scex Rouge glacier and Tsanfleuron glacier since at least the Roman era will have melted away completely within a few weeks, Glacier 3000 officials
SERBIA: A view of a dry lake bed near the village of Conoplja, 150 kilometers north-west of Belgrade, Serbia
SERBIA: A dead fish skeleton laying on the cracking earth of a dry lake bed near the village of Conoplja
POLAND: Dead fish float on the surface of the Oder river, as water has been contaminated and is causing the mass extinction of fish in the river, in Bielinek
In Burgundy, images show yellow-brown grass while tractors churn up clouds of dust as the source of water for the region, the Seine River, has depleted.
Baptiste Colson, who owns dairy cows and grows feed crops in the village of Moloy, eastern France, said the quality and quantity of his cows milk is decreasing.
He said he expects at least a 30 per cent drop in corn yields, as experts predict that EU corn production will be 12.5 million tonnes below last year.
Sunflower production is projected to be 1.6 million tonnes lower, according to S&P Global Commodity Insights.
‘We know we’ll have to buy food so the cows can continue producing milk,’ Baptise Colson said. ‘From an economic point of view, the cost will be high.’
The dry conditions are a result of long periods of dry weather caused by changes in world weather systems, according to meteorologist Peter Hoffmann of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
He said drought builds up across the year, but is felt the most during the summer months.
Climate change has lessened the temperature differences between regions, sapping the forces that drive the jet stream, which usually brings wet Atlantic weather to Europe.
A weaker or unstable jet stream can bring unusually hot air to Europe from north Africa, which leads to prolonged periods of heat. The same can be said for freezing conditions, when a vortex of cold air from the Artic can cause unusually cold weather far south of where it would normally reach.