Firefighters battle to contain and quell huge blaze in south-west France

More than 1,000 firefighters are struggling to contain a massive wildfire which has burned a large area of pine forest in south-west France – in a region already ravaged by flames last month.

Local authorities said more than 26 square miles have burned since Tuesday in the Gironde region and neighbouring Landes as France, like other European countries, swelters through a hot and dry summer.

Temperatures are expected to reach 40C on Thursday in the region.

The blaze forced the evacuation of about 10,000 people and destroyed at least 16 houses.

The sheer scale of the wildfire is so large that its plume of smoke can be seen from space Thibaud Moritz/Getty

Photographs released by firefighters showed flames raging through pine forests overnight, sending clouds of smoke in the air and illuminating the sky with intense orange light.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and interior minister Gerald Darmanin are due to visit the evacuated small town of Hostens on Thursday to meet firefighters, rescuers, local officials and volunteers.

Mr Darmanin said nine aircraft and two helicopters have been mobilised to fight the blaze.

The Gironde region was hit last month by major wildfires that forced the evacuation of more than 39,000 people, including residents and tourists.

France is this week in the midst of its fourth heat wave of the year as the country faces what the government warned is its worst drought on record.

National weather agency Meteo France said the heatwave began in the south and is expected to spread across the country and last until the weekend.

The southern half of France expects daytime temperatures of up to 40C and they will not drop below 20C during the night.

Meteo France said this week’s heatwave will not be as intense as the one last month when several regions experienced record-breaking temperatures.

But the high temperatures come during the most severe drought ever recorded, according to the government. Last month was the driest July since measurements began in 1959.

Some farmers have started to see drops in production especially in soy, sunflower and corn yields.

Water restrictions range from daytime irrigation bans to limiting water usage to people, livestock and to keep aquatic species alive.

The government said last week that more than 100 municipalities could not provide drinking water through taps and needed water truck supplies.

The heat also forced energy giant EDF to temporarily cut power generation at some of its nuclear plants which use river water to cool reactors.

Meanwhile, Spain’s national weather agency said the country has never had a month as hot as July in more than six decades.

For the first time since records started in 1961, July registered an average temperature of 25.6C – 2.7C above the recorded average for any previous July.

The southern Andalusian town of Moron de la Frontera posted the highest temperature of the month with 46C on July 24. The north-west Galicia region posted a record 44C (111 F) in Ourense city.

The extreme heat and lack of rain has caused many wildfires and worsened drought in many areas.

The European Forest Fire Information System says 2022 has been the worst year for fires in Spain. The agency said 240,000 hectares have been razed by more than 370 fires.

Portugal’s weather service also said July was the hottest since national records began in 1931. The average temperature was 25.1C, almost 3C higher than the expected monthly average.