0806 GMT October 06, 2022
Britain officially declared a drought in parts of England on Friday as households faced new water usage restrictions during a period of prolonged hot and dry weather that has already severely tested the nation's infrastructure.
Parts of southern, central and eastern England are now in drought status, meaning that water companies will step up efforts to manage the impact of dry weather on farmers and the environment, the Environment Agency said in a statement, according to Reuters.
"All water companies have reassured us that essential supplies are still safe, and we have made it clear it is their duty to maintain those supplies," Water Minister Steve Double said, following a meeting of the National Drought Group.
The meeting followed what was the driest July in England since 1935. Only 35% of the average rainfall for the month fell, and parts of England and Wales are now in the middle of a four-day "extreme heat" alert. The last drought in England was 2018.
When the dry weather breaks early next week, rain and thunderstorms mean there is a small chance of flooding in some parts of the country, the Met Office national forecaster said on Friday, issuing a warning for Monday.
Much of Europe has faced weeks of baking temperatures that have triggered large wildfires, drained water levels of the Rhine River in Germany and seen the source of Britain's River Thames dry up further downstream than in previous years.
Firefighters from across Europe started arriving in France on Friday to help battle several wildfires, including a giant blaze ravaging pine forests in the southwest of the country, according to AP.
The firefighters’ brigade from the Gironde region said the spread of the forest fire was limited overnight due to little wind but conditions for containing the blaze remained “unfavorable” due to hot, dry weather.
The fire in the Gironde region and neighboring Landes has burned more than 74 square kilometers (29 square miles) since Tuesday and led to the evacuation of at least 10,000 people.