‘We are at war’: The latest on the heat waves around the world

“We are at war,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Monday, discussing the wildfires ravaging his country, exacerbated by Europe’s hottest month in 174 years of keeping records.

“The climate crisis is already here,” he told Greece’s parliament.

As multiple heat waves grip large swaths of the globe, here are some reports from some of the front lines of that battle, including in Canada.

In Europe: Fires and temps near 50 C

Wildfires and/or drought have affected many countries in Europe this summer, from Portugal to Turkey to Russia.

Fires burning since Wednesday on Greece‘s island of Rhodes forced the evacuation of 19,000 people — described as the largest undertaken in the country — as an inferno reached coastal resorts this weekend. Tour operators flew home nearly 1,500 holiday-makers at the start of a mass evacuation on Monday and officials said the threat of further fires was high in almost every region of the country.

WATCH |Tourists flee Greek island: 

Wildfires force thousands of tourists from Greek island

Wildfires forced 19,000 people to flee the popular tourist island of Rhodes in Greece. It’s considered the largest evacuation ever for the country and it wasn’t without issues.

The fires left blackened trees, dead animals and burnt-out cars. It also raised concerns that tourists will stay away in a country where one in five people work in tourism.

A wildfire also forced evacuations from the island of Corfu, and emergency services were dealing with multiple fires near Athens.

A man walks along a densely smoky hillside near trees, as the sun shines through the smoke.
A police officer is silhouetted as a wildfire burns near the village of Asklipieio, on the island of Rhodes, Greece, on Monday. (Nicolas Economou/Reuters)

In Italy, fires were burning in woods and vegetation in various parts of Calabria, and Sicily’s civil protection agency said the temperature in some areas in eastern Sicily rose to 47 C on Sunday, close to the record European high of 48.8 C from two years ago.

A person bends over to stick their head entirely underwater in a circular fountain. A statue is visible in the distance.
A person cools off at the Piazza del Popolo in Rome last week. (Remo Casilli/Reuters)

In Spain, voters in the general election Sunday braved temperatures expected to average above 35 degrees C, or five-to-10 degrees above normal, in many parts of the country. Authorities distributed fans to many voting stations.

“We have the heat, but the right to exercise our vote freely is stronger than the heat,” said Rosa Maria Valladolid-Prieto, 79, in Barcelona.

A white and grey cat, one leg up on a street curb, looks at the camera as it rests near a car's tire.
A cat takes refuge from the heat in the shadow of a car in Bucharest, Romania, on Saturday. Temperatures peaking at over 40 C are forecast for Romania this week. (Vadim Ghirda/The Associated Press)

In Canada: Worries about the drug crisis

With temperatures soaring in Alberta, including a forecast high of 32 C today, there are concerns the drug crisis will make extreme heat even more dangerous for vulnerable people there.

Outreach workers have been taking extra steps to ensure people experiencing homelessness and struggling with addictions are protected from the heat.

At the Calgary Drop-In Centre, staff are already watching out for negative effects of the heat.

“We’re really looking out for things like heat exhaustion, extreme sunburn — so we will supply individuals with little packets of sunscreen — and dehydration,” said Kevin Webb, director of emergency shelter and housing at the Calgary Drop-In Centre.

The heat wave comes at a time when Alberta is reporting record opioid deaths.

“My big worry is that these numbers will only be exacerbated, not just by the substance use themselves and by the toxicity of the drug supply, but also by this added stress of heat and being exposed to the elements outdoors,” said Dr. Monty Ghosh, an addictions specialist and assistant professor at the University of Calgary.

“This sort of intersection between substance use and homelessness, along with the added stress of heat, can worsen their overall situation and can lead to more deaths. So we have to be extremely careful and cautious with this population.”

Recent CBC heat coverage:

In the U.S.: Journalists stunned by Arizona heat

In Arizona, where temperatures have topped 43 C every day this month, even journalists who are accustomed to life in the desert say it’s never been like this.

The weather in Phoenix is so hot that cameras stop working and burn your hand, cellphones glitch and no amount of water or Gatorade can keep you going. Phoenix firefighters are keeping IVs on ice to respond to calls from people overheating.

“What worries me about this heat wave is that it’s not breaking,” said Peter Prengaman, the news agency’s incoming global climate and environment news director. “This could be a harbinger of future heat waves, in both Phoenix and around the world.”

A man with no shirt wearing American flag shorts holds his hands to his head, his face lost in shadow, as he walks down a street.
A man walks through a homeless encampment during a record heat wave in Phoenix, Ariz., last week. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images)

Associated Press photographer Matt York was surprised to learn he was suffering from heat exhaustion, after 23 years of experience in the state.

“I often carry a towel to dry off and keep the sweat from dripping in my viewfinder,” he wrote. “But then I realized there was no need to wipe down. I was dry. I stopped sweating altogether. My body had no more water to give. My legs started feeling chilled, an odd sensation. Then they cramped.”

His blood pressure was clocked at 178/120. 

He and his partner have decided to change the way they do things, with more cool-down time, more water and an acceptance that during some assignments they’ll have to call it quits.

“We typically fight through not feeling well on assignments — but not with heat. It’s too risky.”

A man, photographed from below, is silhouetted by the glaring sun.
Fence installer Michael Gillespie works in the sun Monday in Richardson, Texas. (LM Otero/The Associated Press)

In politics: Climate summit host called out

The United Arab Emirates has said it is committed to delivering targets to cut the CO2 emissions causing climate change after an independent research group said the country, which will host this year’s COP28 climate summit, is far off track.

In an analysis published last week, research consortium Climate Action Tracker said the U.A.E. would miss its climate targets by a large margin if it went ahead with plans to expand oil and gas production and use — and would see its CO2 emissions rise through to 2030.

WATCH | A global look at recent heat waves and those affected: 

A world on fire: a global look at recent heat waves and those affected

Around the world, people are experiencing heat waves, some of which are setting new records. The high temperatures have contributed to more wildfires in places like Canada and Greece, and, according to officials at the World Health Organization and World Meteorological Organization, there are potential major health impacts to the young, the elderly and the homeless.

In Sweden, climate activist Greta Thunberg was fined about $315 for disobeying police during an environmental protest at an oil facility last month. The 20-year-old Thunberg admitted to the facts but denied guilt, saying the fight against the fossil fuel industry was a form of self-defence due to the existential and global threat of the climate crisis.

A few hours after the sentencing, she and other activists returned to the oil terminal to stage another roadblock. She was again removed by police.

Two police officers in uniform hold the arms of a young woman. Several other people look on as a TV camera records.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg is lifted away by police after taking part in a new climate action in Oljehamnen, Malmo, Sweden, on Monday. (Andreas Hillergren/TT News Agency/The Associated Press)

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