By Nora Peter, IFRC

Extreme temperatures across much of Europe are due to peak this week as some countries brace themselves for highs of 39 degrees Celsius.

Forest fires saw 1,500 people forced to evacuate in Spain this weekend when blazes swept parts of Andalucia.  Spanish Red Cross teams were on the ground providing health care, psychosocial support and emergencies supplies including food and water to those affected.

The raging fires in Central Portugal that claimed more than 60 lives have been tackled but the long recovery process for more than 500 people who saw their homes destroyed is just beginning, with the help of the Portuguese Red Cross.

Disaster management coordinator for the IFRC in Europe, Ruben Romero, said:

“Our Red Cross colleagues have been working in communities hit by the recent fires in Portugal and Spain, providing emergency support.

“In Portugal, hundreds of people now face the overwhelming challenge of coming to terms with what has happened and beginning to think about how to rebuild their lives – the Red Cross is part of this process and will be there to support them through it.”

A total of 326 volunteers and staff, including 25 psychologists and five social workers from 39 branches are involved in supporting the worst-hit communities to recover.

As temperatures remain high this week, Red Cross and Red Crescent teams are providing health information, tips and first aid advice on how people can stay safe during the hot weather and what to do if the worst happens.

Multiple heat waves are expected to sweep across Europe in the summer, national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are making efforts to prepare communities for the extreme weather conditions. Most of them pay special attention to the most vulnerable, including pregnant women and children, the elderly and people suffering from chronic diseases.

The Spanish Red Cross is carrying out a campaign on how to avoid dehydration and sunburn, with teams giving out information on beaches, at shopping centres and on the street. Older people, who are among the most vulnerable during extreme weather are being given support and information on the phone.

Older people are also the focus of a Luxembourg Red Cross campaign where people over the 75 who live alone can registered for home visits from volunteers who will make sure they have enough to drink and are protected from the heat.

Magen David Adom in Israel is distributing information on heat stroke prevention through the media, social media and leaflets, while sending out alerts to users through their mobile application. It has also increased its disaster preparedness, especially for the threat of bush fires.