Sweden’s wildfires still serious with heatwave on the horizon

Even though the fires haven't spread, emergency services are concerned the extreme heat expected to hit Sweden next week could aggravate the situation.

Sweden's wildfires still serious with heatwave on the horizon
Photos: TT
An international brigade of firefighters worked through Saturday night to little avail as wildfires continued to burn their way through large parts of forested Sweden. 
“The situation is still serious but hasn't deteriorated significantly compared to Saturday,” Britta Ramberg, operational director of Sweden’s Civil Contingencies Agency, said at a press conference on Sunday.
“We've seen a slight stabilisation or improvement of the situation, but there is no reason to be too optimistic.”

The news comes just a day after firefighters managed to slash the number of fires raging in the country from 80 down to 44. 

Extinguishing efforts on Saturday were helped by the arrival of rain and storms in some of the affected areas, but the bad weather also brought stronger winds with it, making the blazes more uncontainable. 

The situation in Älvdalen and Ljusdal remained unchanged during the night, Swedish news agency TT reported. 

“There is nothing alarming that stands out,” said Anders Fridborg, emergency services press officer in Ljusdal.

“We have had some rain and we are happy about that”.

“Even in Dalarna county the night has been calm, “added Thomas Carlsson, another emergency rescue worker.

Aerial view of fire in Västernorrland. Photo: Swedish Coast Guard

But despite not having to deal with an increase in wildfires, MSB warned on Friday that it is currently “impossible” to extinguish some of the largest blazes, mainly because of the hot, dry weather that has arrived early and the lack of rain that preceded it.

And the forecast for the week to come also gives little hope of improvement.

Temperatures are expected to be between 30 and 35 degrees Celsius in the middle of the week, Swedish meteorological body SMHI has announced.

“We fear we haven’t see the worst, ” MSB coordinator Peter Arnevall told TT.

Residents of six areas in Gävleborg, Dalarna, and Jämtland Counties continued to receive emergency alerts and updates from Sweden’s SOS Alarm emergency services on Saturday night.

IN NUMBERS:  The scale of Sweden's wildfires and the efforts to contain them



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Mortality increased by 700 during Sweden’s summer heatwave

Around 700 more people than usual died during the peak of Sweden’s record-breaking summer heat, the National Health Agency said on Thursday.

Mortality increased by 700 during Sweden's summer heatwave
Stockholmers take to the water in an attempt to escape the summer heat. File photo: Christine Olsson / TT
The agency cautioned however that those roughly 700 additional deaths cannot necessarily be directly attributed to the heat. Significant increases in mortality during the summer were only seen in the older age groups. 
The 700 additional deaths occurred during the period of June 18th through September 2nd, or weeks 25 through 35 to use the Swedish method of numbered weeks. 
The highest mortality rates were during the week of June 25 through July 1st and the period of July 16th through August 5th, according to the agency’s figures. 
The summer months also saw a marked increase in the number of vibriosis infections, caused by Vibrio bacteria that live in coastal waters. While an average summer brings around 20 cases of vibriosis, there were 131 this summer. 
“A probable explanation for the summer’s increase in vibriosis infections is that our bathing waters were unusually hot for an unusually long time,” epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said in a National Health Agency press release
The summer of 2018 set numerous weather records in Sweden, beginning with the hottest May on record and the hottest June in 100 years. That was followed by one of the hottest months of July ever recorded in several places across the country, including Stockholm’s average temperature of 22.5C, which was the highest-ever average temperature in the country and several degrees above normal. That month also saw the outbreak of what was described as the “most serious” wildfire situation of modern times
Up until August 28th, when the weather started to cool down, the north had temperatures of 1-3C above normal and the south Sweden 2-4C. In most of southern and central Sweden, it was the warmest summer since records began, including in Uppsala (records began 1722), Stockholm (1756), Lund (1859) and Gothenburg (1860).
The National Health Agency said that survey results indicated that upwards of one-fourth of Sweden residents experienced some sort of heat-related health problem during the record-breaking summer but that a full 96 percent of survey respondents felt that they had been adequately informed on how to handle the heat wave.