Extreme weather worldwide, as floods burst dams and fires ravage forests

Catastrophic outbreaks of extreme weather were reported on four continents on Monday, as record floods and forest fires caused emergencies everywhere from the US and Russia to China and New Zealand.

As Germany and lowland Europe attempted to recover from last week’s devastating floods, firefighters in the US state of Oregon continued to battle the massive Bootleg Fire that has already blazed its way through nearly 500 square miles of tinder-dry woodlands. .

Over 2,000 people have had to evacuated from the region of southern Oregon affected by the Bootleg fire

Credit: Jason Pettigrew/Bootleg Fire Incident Command/AP

At the same time, colleagues in Russia’s Siberia region fought fires that have swathed nearly 50 cities in smoke, while in China, torrential rains in the north-west region of Inner Mongolia caused two reservoirs to burst their dams.

The spate of apocalyptic images has raised concerns about the effect of climate change, with environmentalists claiming that rising global temperatures make seasonal weather events far more volatile.

In Germany, where at least 160 people are now believed to have died in flooding since last Wednesday, officials defended themselves yesterday against criticisms that they had failed to respond adequately.

Speaking on a tour of flood-stricken areas, Horst Seehofer, the German interior minister, said it would be "completely inconceivable for such a catastrophe to be managed centrally".   Mr Seehofer made his comments as he toured devastated Ahrweiler district south of Cologne and also the Steinbachtal dam, which had been at risk of bursting over the weekend.

The Tamarack Fire has grown explosively to more than 20,000 acres, with zero containment so far

Credit: Noah Berger/AP

German rescue workers are continuing to searching for dozens of people still missing in the floods, the country’s worst natural disaster in half a century. Officials are understood to be planning an immediate £350m regional relief package, amid warnings that some residents now face months without electricity or running water.

Searches were also under way in Belgium, where 31 have been declared dead by the floods and more than 160 people are still missing.

In Oregon and California, there were warnings of new forest fires being sparked by lighting from thunderstorms.

The massive Bootleg Fire has already burned an area roughly the size of Los Angeles, with more than 2,000 people forced to evacuate. "With the very dry fuels, any thunderstorm has the potential to ignite new fire starts," the National Weather Service in Sacramento, California, said on Twitter.

At least 30 people were killed on Sunday in three Mumbai suburbs following heavy flooding

Credit: PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images

Although forest fires are common in the area, experts say the conditions are more typical of the sultry conditions of late summer or autumn.  Some of the infernos have spread in steep, remote areas almost inaccessible to fire crews.  In all, around 70 active forest fires have burned nearly 1,700 square miles of territory across the US.

There were similar scenes in northern regions of Russia, with smoke from wildfires forcing the airport of the Siberian city of Yakutsk to shut, and choking 50 other nearby towns and settlements. Russian officials said it they the worst fires in 150 years. Russia’s Emergency Ministry deployed two amphibious aircraft to Yakutia to help a 2,000 strong force of firefighters, although locals said it was not enough.  

A bus left stranded on a waterlogged road in Mumbai following heavy monsoon rainfall

Credit: PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images

"We can’t see each other because of the smoke, our eyes are burning and overall the smoke is very dangerous for the health of us villagers," said Vasiliy Krivoshapkin, a resident of the village of Magaras. In China, a weekend of unusually heavy downpours caused the collapse of two dams at reservoirs serving the Inner Mongolian city of Hulunbuir.  Footage posted on Chinese social media showed one of the dams being completely swept away by the water, inundating nearby fields and rushing down motorway lanes. While locals living downstream were evacuated, the collapse of the dams has raised concerns over the ability of ageing infrastructure to withstand extreme weather events. China has more than 98,000 reservoirs used to regulate floods, generate power and facilitate shipping, many more than 40 years old.

Residents inspect the damage following record flooding in the town of Schuld, western Germany

Credit: Adam Berry/Getty Images

In India, 35 people were killed as "monstrous" seasonal monsoon rains fell nationwide, triggering landslides and house collapses. Around 30 of the fatalities were in three suburbs of Mumbai, where several houses crumbled in landslides after rain. The extreme weather also hit Southern Hemisphere nations currently in winter, with New Zealand receiving the equivalent of one month of rain over the weekend. A state of emergency was declared in the Buller District on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island being hit by severe flooding, with thousands evacuated from their homes.

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