Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven held a press conference on Friday morning alongside Dan Eliasson, the head of Sweden’s Civil Contingencies Agency which is tasked with coordinating the ongoing fire and rescue efforts, as around 50 separate wildfires continued to rage across the country.
Löfven, who yesterday visited one of the areas worst affected by blazes, described the situation as “extreme”. Sweden is receiving emergency assistance from several EU countries, he added.
“Our cooperation with the EU and our neighbours has worked very well,” he said.
The wildfires that are ravaging several areas of #Sweden are unfortunately very visible from Space… Here are three views of the area around Enskogen and Kårgöle captured yesterday by our #Sentinel2??? #skogsbrand #DIY https://t.co/KFzRYjCcWV pic.twitter.com/dVJboWT5Nl
— Copernicus EU (@CopernicusEU) July 20, 2018
It is estimated that around two million cubic metres of forest at a value of around 600 million kronor has so far been destroyed by the flames, and because there are so many active blazes burning in so many different locations across the country, firefighting services are stretched to the limit.
Eliasson warned people “not to underestimate” the situation. “We are in the most serious and difficult situation Swedish fire and rescue services have ever been in,” he said. “This could escalate.”
The weather in Sweden has been exceptionally dry this summer, and the lack of rain is also so bad that the government is considering state assistance for farmers struggling with the conditions.
Because of this drought it will be impossible to fully extinguish some of the largest blazes until it rains. Instead, firefighters are focusing on slowing down and limiting the spread of the wildfires.
“It could take weeks, and meanwhile there is a risk that thunder storms and winds could make the situation worse,” Eliasson told reporters at the press conference in Stockholm.
Around 700 people from the fire and rescue services are currently involved in fighting blazes in the three worst-hit regions – Gävleborg, Dalarna and Jämtland – and 500 from the Armed Forces.
Hundreds of volunteers have also signed up to help and the Red Cross has been tasked with coordinating civilian efforts (if you want to know what you can do to help, read this article).
Soldiers getting instructions before assisting with the emergency efforts. Photo: Mats Andersson/TT