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ENVIRONMENT

Swedish coastguard spot massive mystery spill in Baltic Sea

The Swedish coast guard said on Thursday it had detected a massive spill of an unknown substance in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Sweden.

Swedish coastguard spot massive mystery spill in Baltic Sea
Image from the Swedish Coast Guard showing the spill. Photo: Swedish Coast Guard/Kustbevakningen

Covering a surface area of 77 square kilometres (30 square miles) in both Swedish and Finnish waters, the spill was first detected on Wednesday in the Bothnian Sea.

“What the spill consists of is still not clear but it is not mineral oil, and there is currently no immediate threat of landfall,” the coast guard said in a statement. It said it had mapped the spill using planes and also collected samples, adding that it would not be able to comment on which measures to deploy until after the samples had been analysed.

A preliminary investigation into environmental crimes has also been launched.

“Among other things, it is being investigated which ships have been in the area and what cargo they have had,” the coast guard said.

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WILDFIRES

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

Europe's blistering summer may not be over yet, but 2022 is already breaking records, with nearly 660,000 hectares ravaged since January, according to the EU's satellite monitoring service.

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

And while countries on the Mediterranean have normally been the main seats of fires in Europe, this year, other countries are also suffering heavily.

Fires this year have forced people to flee their homes, destroyed buildings and burned forests in EU countries, including Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Some 659,541 hectares (1.6 million acres) have been destroyed so far, data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) showed, setting a record at this point in the year since data collection began in 2006.

Europe has suffered a series of heatwaves, forest fires and historic drought that experts say are being driven by human-induced climate change.

They warn more frequent and longer heatwaves are on the way.

The worst-affected country has been Spain, where fire has destroyed 244,924 hectares, according to EFFIS data.

The EFFIS uses satellite data from the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

The data comes after CAMS said Friday that 2022 was a record year for wildfire activity in southwestern Europe and warned that a large proportion of western Europe was now in “extreme fire danger”.

“2022 is already a record year, just below 2017,” EFFIS coordinator Jesus San-Miguel said. In 2017, 420,913 hectares had burned by August 13, rising to 988,087 hectares by the end of the year.

“The situation in terms of drought and extremely high temperatures has affected all of Europe this year and the overall situation in the region is worrying, while we are still in the middle of the fire season,” he said.

Since 2010, there had been a trend towards more fires in central and northern Europe, with fires in countries that “normally do not experience fires in their territory”, he added.

“The overall fire season in the EU is really driven mainly by countries in the Mediterranean region, except in years like this one, in which fires also happen in central and northern regions,” he added.

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