The fire spread through 27,000 hectares in the Gironde department in southwestern France, forcing 32,000 people to evacuate, the local prefecture announced on Monday evening.
The nearby town of Cazaux recorded 42.4 degrees Celsius (108.3 degrees Fahrenheit) on Monday, the hottest it has seen since its weather station opened more than 100 years ago in 1921, according to the service. French national weather forecast Météo France.
Major cities in western France, such as Nantes and Brest, also hit new heat records, he added.
In Finistère, on the country’s Atlantic coast, fires were first reported on Monday afternoon; less than eight hours later, the flames had decimated more than 700 acres of land, prompting the evacuation of several villages.
More than 70,000 hectares have been destroyed in Spain due to fires this year, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Monday. “Seventy thousand hectares, to give you an idea, is almost double the average of the last decade,” he said.
The country’s Carlos III Health Institute on Monday estimated a cumulative total of more than 510 heatwave-related deaths in the country, based on a statistical calculation of excess deaths.
Hundreds of people have also died in neighboring Portugal, where sweltering temperatures are exacerbating a severe drought.
On Saturday, Portugal’s health ministry said 659 people, mostly elderly people, had died in the previous seven days, Reuters reported.
An elderly couple also died on Monday after their vehicle overturned while fleeing forest fires in northern Portugal, public broadcaster RTP reported.
In total, more than 1,100 people are believed to have died due to the ongoing heat wave in southern Europe.
As the heat wave spreads across the country, the French capital Paris is expected to hit 39 degrees Celsius (102.2 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday.
In the UK – where temperatures on Monday reached 38.1 degrees in Santon Downham, eastern England, making it the third hottest day on record – officials warned things would get worse most likely.
Tuesday is set to “be even hotter”, according to Met Office CEO Penelope Endersby.
“It’s tomorrow that we’ll really see the biggest chance of 40 degrees and temperatures above that,” Endersby told BBC Radio on Monday.
“Even maybe above that, 41 isn’t out of place. We even have a few 43s in the pattern, but hopefully it won’t be that high.”
In France, the heat wave should move away from the west of the country on Tuesday, heading instead towards the center and the east, including Paris.
The Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium (KMI/IRM) issued a “code red” weather warning for heat in two provinces on Tuesday, predicting temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius in the west and south-west.
“With such high temperatures certain measures will be necessary: drink regularly, wear lighter clothes, spend the day in cooler rooms, regularly monitor your health, eat foods that are easy to digest (and in smaller portions), keep doors and windows closed to keep the heat out. Pets and animals also need extra care,” he warned residents.
Faced with drought
The Joint Research Center stressed that the drought in much of Europe is “critical” because the “winter-spring rainfall deficit…has been exacerbated by early heat waves in May and June”.
The water supply could be “compromised” in the coming months, according to the report.
Speaking to CNN on Monday, Oxford University professor Myles Allen warned that such heat waves would be inevitable unless humanity cuts carbon emissions soon.
“It’s not a new normal because we’re just on a trend towards ever warmer temperatures,” Allen told CNN on Monday.
The solution, he said, is a radical change in the energy industry. Individual companies are unlikely to unilaterally change their business models due to fears of losing competitiveness against competitors, he added.
“It has to be a regulation on the industry as a whole,” Allen said.
Joseph Ataman, Jimmy Hutcheon and Xiaofei Xu reported from Paris. Zahid Mahmood and Sana Noor Haq reported from London. CNN’s Renee Bertini, James Frater and Sharon Braithwaite contributed to this post.