As Britain endured the hottest day in the record of the country today, firefighters described “absolute hell” as 40C heat gave way to destructive wildfires across the country.
Homes in London went up in flames and residents were evacuated as the blazes tore through the Southeast of the country.
More than 400 firefighters were on hand to tackle what they have described as a “major incident”. More than nine dangerous blazes raged in London this afternoon, which have destroyed at least five homes so far.
The heatwave has also caused serious electrical problems in the Northeast of England, with many homes experiencing power cuts and technology blackouts.
Apocalyptic-like fires also broke out alongside main roads and freeways around London as the dry heat ignited fields of crops and pastures, leading to travel chaos for those attempting to leave or enter the capital city.
Temperature in parts of England is set to hit a sweltering 43C this afternoon – rendering Britain hotter than Caribbean nations including Jamaica, the Maldives and Barbados.
The record-breaking heat and ‘tinderbox’ conditions across Europe were caused by an ‘Azores High’ subtropical pressure and hot air from the Sahara in Africa which scorched its way across Europe causing destruction, death and wildfires in its wake.
One of the several hundred firefighters attempting to tackle the 18 major blazes which have ignited up and down Britain from Upminster in London to Cornwall on the opposite side of the country said the scenes have been “absolute hell”.
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Jonathan Smith, assistant commissioner at the London Fire Brigade explained that the fires had been caused by the excessive heat combined with the extremely dry conditions:
“So even a small fire will develop very, very quickly if it’s not tackled effectively and efficiently in its early stages. We would also say to people that they don’t try and tackle fires themselves,” he urged.
“The situation that you can see is extremely dynamic and these fires can develop very, very quickly and we would not want to see members of the public exposing themselves to unnecessary risk.”
Lynn Sabberton who was evacuated from her home in the region of Wennington in London along with her partner who suffers with breathing difficulties said the breeze was causing the wildfire to spread “very fast”:
“We thought it was one of the fields that caught alight over the back of us,” she told Sky News.
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“But then a neighbor rang me and said, ‘oh no, it’s on the green, the green has caught fire’. I saw the black smoke and the helicopters came over and more police came into our neighborhood, and it was really spreading very fast.
“It just spread so quickly, I think the wind caused the fire to go our way towards the village.”
Walter Martin, 61, the landlord of a pub in the county of Kent which borders London said he had “never seen anything like” another wildfire which broke out in the town of Rainham:
“I got a phone call at about 12:50 and I saw a little smoke, I walked around and saw a small fire and then saw it just go up. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s awful. People are in shock. People are devastated.”
The heatwave has contributed to several untimely deaths as Brits struggle to keep cool in the blistering weather including a 14-year-old boy who is believed to have drowned in the river Thames, and a 16-year-old boy who drowned in a lake in Maidenhead.
While there have been no reported fatalities caused by the wildfires, it is not yet known if any pets or livestock perished in the blazes.