Wildfires spread, fish die off amid severe drought in Europe
Dead fishes drift in the Oder River near Brieskow-Finkenheerd, eastern Germany, Thursday, August 11, 2022. Huge numbers of dead fish have washed up along the banks of the Oder River between Germany and Poland. (Frank Hammerschmidt/dpa via AP)

PARIS, France (AP) — Firefighters from across Europe struggled Thursday to contain a huge wildfire in France that has swept through a large swath of pine forest, while Germans and Poles faced a mass fish die-off in a river flowing between their countries.

Europe is suffering under a severe heat wave and drought that has produced tragic consequences for farmers and ecosystems already under threat from climate change and pollution.

The drought is causing a loss of agricultural products and other food at a time when supply shortages and Russia’s war against Ukraine have caused inflation to spike.

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 neighbouring Landes. More than 68 square kilometers (26 square miles) have burned since Tuesday.

The French wildfires have already forced the evacuation of about 10,000 people and destroyed at least 16 houses.

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.

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.

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