Fierce heatwave in western Europe leaves much of the continent wilting under a scorching Sun, smashing temperature records and feeding ferocious forest wildfires.

Teresa Ribera, Spain's minister for ecological transition, describes her country as
Teresa Ribera, Spain's minister for ecological transition, describes her country as "literally under fire". (AP)

A heatwave broiling Europe has spilled northward to Britain and fuelled ferocious wildfires in Spain and France, which evacuated thousands of people and scrambled water-bombing planes and firefighters to battle flames in tinder-dry forests.

Two people were killed in the blazes in Spain that its prime minister linked to global heating, saying, "Climate change kills."

That toll comes on top of the hundreds of heat-related deaths reported in the Iberian peninsula, as high temperatures have gripped the continent in recent days and triggered wildfires from Portugal to the Balkans.

Some areas, including northern Italy, are also experiencing extended droughts. 

The climate crisis makes such life-threatening extremes less of a rarity — and heatwaves have come even to places like Britain, which braced for possible 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.

In France, heat records were broken, and swirling hot winds complicated firefighting in the country's southwest.

"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.

Authorities evacuated more towns, moving another 14,900 people from areas that could find themselves in the path of the fires and choking smoke. In all, more than 31,000 people have been forced from their homes and summer vacation spots in the Gironde region since the wildfires began on July 12.

In Spain, more than 30 forest fires around the country have forced the evacuation of thousands of people and blackened 220 square kilometres of forest and scrub.

READ MORE: Half of EU territory 'at risk' of drought as Europe swelters in heatwave

'Literally under fire'

Climate scientists say heatwaves are more intense, more frequent and longer because of the climate crisis — and coupled with droughts have made wildfires harder to fight. 

They say the climate crisis will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

Teresa Ribera, Spain's minister for ecological transition, described her country as "literally under fire" as she attended talks on the climate crisis in Berlin.

At least 748 heat-related deaths have been reported in the heatwave in Spain and neighbouring Portugal, where temperatures reached 47 C earlier this month.

In Britain, officials have issued the first-ever extreme heat warning and the weather service forecast that the record high of 38.7 C, set in 2019, could be shattered.

France’s often-temperate Brittany region sweltered with a record 39.3 C degrees in the port of Brest, surpassing a high of 35.1 C that had stood since September 2003, French weather service Meteo-France said.

Ireland saw temperatures of 33C in Dublin –– the highest since 1887 –– while in the Netherlands, temperatures reached 35.4C in the southern city of Westdorpe. While that was not a record, higher temperatures are expected there on Tuesday.

Neighbouring Belgium also expected temperatures of 40C and over.

The Balkans region expected the worst of the heat later this week but has already seen sporadic wildfires.

READ MORE: Europe heatwave: UK, France brace for hottest day on record

Source: TRTWorld and agencies