Cities across China were on red alert for heatwaves on Monday, as tens of millions of people were warned to stay indoors and record temperatures strained the energy supply.
Swathes of the planet have been hit by extreme and deadly heatwaves in recent months, from Western Europe in July to India in March to April.
Scientists say the extreme weather has become more frequent due to climate change, and will likely grow more intense as global temperatures continue to rise.
China is no exception and is sweating through one of its hottest summers on record.
In the eastern provinces of Zhejiang and Fujian, the mercury rose above 41 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit) over the weekend, reaching all-time highs in two cities.
People in areas under red heat alerts — mostly concentrated in the southeast and northwest — are being ordered to “cease all outdoor activities” and “pay special attention to fire prevention,” the national meteorological service said in multiple notices over the weekend.
Saturday marked the “Great Heat” day on China’s traditional calendar, long recognised as the hottest period of the year, but this summer has been exceptionally warm.
Earlier this month Shanghai recorded its highest air temperature — 40.9C — since records began in 1873.
The scorching heat sent hundreds of people to the beach in Fujian’s Xiamen city on Sunday, while others hid from the sun under hats and face coverings.
China’s power grid is also feeling the strain from increased demand for air conditioning, with the country’s largest power plants generating at a record capacity in mid-July, according to energy industry publication Sxcoal.
Some local governments have resorted to turning off street lamps and raising peak period electricity tariffs for factories this month.
The ongoing heat wave, which has struck the lower reaches of the Yangtze River especially hard, will also “adversely affect local crops,” warned Fu Jiaolan, chief forecaster at the National Meteorological Centre.
Greece on Sunday battled three major wildfires across the country which forced hundreds to evacuate, as soaring temperatures raised fears of more blazes.
The country is in the grip of a heatwave that began on Saturday and is expected to last 10 days. Temperatures were set to rise to 42 degrees Celsius (107 degrees Fahrenheit) in some regions.
Experts blame climate change for the soaring temperatures and warned that the worst is yet to come.
Fires raged in the north, east and south of Greece, including on the island of Lesbos.
Officials ordered the evacuation of around 200 people on Sunday afternoon from Vryssa village on Lesbos as flames crept closer, some 500 metres (1,600 feet) from houses, the deputy mayor of western Lesbos told Skai radio.
Elderly women carried plastic bags with only a few personal belongings as they boarded the first buses to leave the village.
Thick clouds of smoke were already engulfing the first houses of Vryssa.
Early in the afternoon, the village of Stavros was also evacuated.
The blaze broke out a day earlier, causing the evacuation of hundreds of tourists and residents from the beachside village of Vatera.
At least four houses were destroyed in Vatera, state TV ERT reported, and fires damaged an unknown number of shops, hotels and beach bars in the village.
Dozens of firefighters early on Sunday clamoured to control the blaze, with four water-dropping planes and two helicopters in operation.
In the northeastern region of Evros, a wildfire was ablaze for a fourth day in Dadia National Park, known for its black vulture colony.
The fire has already destroyed nearly 500 hectares (1,220 acres) of woodland.
More than 300 firefighters battled to control the fire in Evros and by late Saturday the thick smoke forced the evacuation of the village of Dadias.
It was unclear how many people were evacuated.
“The most important thing for us is the safety of the villagers and all forces (which) will be deployed there,” Evros governor Dimitris Petrovits told Athens News Agency.
The fire had already passed the raptor birds observatory and was closing in on the buildings of the protected area management unit.
Petrovits said collecting and treating injured animals was a high priority for the authorities.
In the Peloponnese, a southern peninsula, a fire that broke out early Saturday forced the evacuation of Chrysokelaria village.
By midday on Sunday, firefighters had managed to contain the fire.
A wildfire in mountains near Athens on Wednesday also damaged homes and forced hundreds of people to evacuate after gale-force winds earlier in the week.
Greece’s worst wildfire disaster killed 102 people in 2018 in the coastal suburb of Mati, east of Athens.
The latest fires come after a heatwave and wildfires last year destroyed 103,000 hectares and claimed three lives in Greece.
Fires in parts of France, Spain and Portugal have already burned more land so far this year than was destroyed by flames in all of 2021.
The area, some 517,881 hectares, is equivalent to the size of Trinidad and Tobago.
A California wildfire ripped through thousands of acres Saturday after being sparked a day earlier, as millions of Americans sweltered through scorching heat with already record-setting temperatures due to climb.
The heat wave encompassing multiple regions has increased the risk of blazes, such as the major Oak Fire, which broke out Friday in California near Yosemite National Park, where giant sequoias have already been threatened by flames in recent days.
The fire — described as “explosive” by officials — grew from about 600 acres to around 11,900 acres (4,800 hectares) within 24 hours. Concentrated in Mariposa County, it has already destroyed ten properties and damaged five others, with thousands more threatened.
More than 6,000 people had been evacuated, said Hector Vasquez, a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection official, as the fire remained uncontained as of Saturday evening.
The department said the fire’s activity was “extreme.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom on Saturday declared a “state of emergency” in Mariposa County, citing “conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property.”
The blaze left ashes, gutted vehicles and twisted remains of properties in its wake, as emergency personnel worked to evacuate residents and protect structures in its path.
More than 500 firefighters are working to extinguish the flames and are being assisted by aircraft, Vasquez said. Officials cited by the Los Angeles Times said it could take a week to contain.
“There’s personnel showing up from various departments all over the state to help control this fire,” Vasquez told AFP, saying the situation remained “really challenging.”
Climate scientist Daniel Swain tweeted that the fire was “exhibiting consistently extreme behaviour,” while stunned social media users posted images of billowing plumes of smoke that reached thousands of feet into the air.
In recent years, California and other parts of the western United States have been ravaged by huge and fast-moving wildfires, driven by years of drought and a warming climate.
Drought and high temperatures have been “not in our favour,” Vasquez said.
Evidence of global warming could be seen elsewhere in the country, as more than a dozen states were under a heat advisory.
The central and northeast US regions face the brunt of the extreme temperatures, which are not expected to peak until Sunday at the earliest and have sent public health officials scrambling.
“From the southern Plains into the East, it will feel extremely oppressive,” the National Weather Service (NWS) said Saturday evening, warning as well of possible severe storms.
Central US metropolitan areas such as Dallas and Oklahoma City were expected to reach highs of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (above 38 degrees Celsius) for at least the next five days.
A heat emergency is in effect for cities up and down the northeast coast, from Boston to Philadelphia to Washington.
Not even the usually cool Pacific Northwest will escape the far-reaching heat, with the region expected to face several days in the 90s next week.
The high temperatures have already caused an uptick in emergency calls for heat-related illnesses.
Cities have been forced to open cooling stations and increase outreach to at-risk communities such as the homeless and those without access to air conditioning.
“This is really one of the things that we recognize in Oklahoma — heat is the number one weather-related killer across the United States. It far surpasses any other” nature-related cause of death, Joseph Kralicek, director of the Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency, told CNN.
Residents of the central US city were expecting temperatures to reach 103F (39C) Saturday and up to 106F (41C) on Sunday and Monday.
The nation’s capital Washington reached temperatures near 100F (38C) on Saturday and was expected to reach or surpass that level on Sunday for the first time in years.
New York was not far behind.
“Look for daytime max temps to eclipse the century mark in the Central Plains and record-breaking high temps from the Central Plains to the Northeast today,” the NWS said in a forecast.
“Sunday grows even hotter in the northeast,” it added.
Severe thunderstorms are expected in the Midwest Saturday, with the potential for damaging winds, large hail and tornadoes, the NWS said.
Various regions of the globe have been hit by extreme heat waves in recent months, such as Western Europe in July and India from March to April, incidents that scientists say are an unmistakable sign of a warming climate.
Italy faced the hottest day of the current heatwave Friday with red extreme heat warnings issued for 16 cities across the country, as firefighters battled blazes up and down the country.
The worst hit is expected to be Milan in the north with temperatures hitting 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), while Bologna to its south and the capital Rome could hit 39 degrees, according to official government estimates.
Other major cities under a cautionary heatwave red alert for Friday and Saturday by Italy’s health ministry include Florence, Genoa, Turin and Verona.
On Thursday, the city of Pavia, just south of Milan, broke a record with thermometers hitting 39.6 degrees.
For three consecutive months — May, June and July — national temperatures have been at least two to three degrees above the seasonal average, and the trend should continue until early August, said the national weather website ilmeteo.com.
Along with the heat have come hundreds of fires across Italy in recent weeks. The largest still raging Friday was in central Tuscany, where 860 hectares had burned since Monday in an area west of Lucca.
Over 1,000 people were evacuated Thursday.
On Friday, 87 firefighters were on the ground after another night spent battling the flames, helped by reinforcements from the Lombardy and Piedmont regions. Water dumps from helicopters were underway, authorities said.
Prosecutors in Lucca have opened an investigation over the cause of the fire.
More contained was a forest fire that broke out Tuesday near Trieste, in Italy’s northeasternmost region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, sending flames and vast plumes of smoke across the border into Slovenia and displacing about 300 people.
The fire — which caused a 15-minute general blackout Tuesday in the city of Trieste — was now “substantially stable,” Deputy Governor Riccardo Riccardi said Thursday, adding that a cold front was expected on Tuesday.
Authorities had not yet calculated how many hectares had burned.
Firefighters said a female civil defence volunteer died while trying to fight the fire. Local media said she was killed by a falling tree.
Italy’s national firefighting corps say they have intervened in 32,921 wildfires from June 15 to July 21, or 4,040 more than in the same period last year.
Most have been in the southern regions of Sicily, Puglia, Calabria and Lazio, around Rome.
According to the specialised European monitoring service Copernicus, fires have ravaged 27,571 hectares so far this year in Italy.
That damage, however, is still well short of that in Spain, where 199,651 hectares have burned, or 149,324 hectares in Romania. In Portugal, 48,106 hectares have burned, with another 39,904 hectares in France.
Italy is “about to reach the maximum power of the African high-pressure zone ‘Apocalypse 4800′”, said ilmeteo.it.
The name, it said, referred to the thermometer dropping below zero degrees only at altitudes above 4,800 meters (15,748 feet) — corresponding to the highest peak of the Alps, Mont Blanc along the French-Italian border.
A fierce heatwave in western Europe on Monday left much of the continent wilting under a scorching sun, smashing temperature records and feeding ferocious forest wildfires.
In Britain, the 38.1 Celsius (100.9 Fahrenheit) in Suffolk, eastern England, made it the hottest day of the year and the third-hottest day on record.Expectations are now high that the current British record of 38.7C could be broken and 40C breached for the first time, with experts blaming climate change and predicting more frequent extreme weather to come.
Across the Channel in France, a host of towns and cities recorded their highest-ever temperatures on Monday, the national weather office said.
The mercury hit 39.3C in Brest on the Atlantic coast of Britany, in the far northwest of the country, smashing a previous record of 35.1C from 2002.
Saint-Brieuc, on the Channel coast, hit 39.5C beating a previous record of 38.1C, and the western city of Nantes recorded 42C, beating a decades-old high of 40.3C, set in 1949.
Firefighters in France’s southwest were still struggling in the crushing heat to contain two massive fires that have caused widespread destruction.
For nearly a week now, armies of firefighters and a fleet of waterbombing aircraft have battled blazes that have mobilised much of France’s firefighting capacity.
Ireland saw temperatures of 33C in Dublin — the highest since 1887 — while in the Netherlands, temperatures reached 35.4C in the southern city of Westdorpe. While that was not a record, higher temperatures are expected there on Tuesday.
Neighbouring Belgium also expected temperatures of 40C and over.
The European heatwave is the second to engulf parts of the southwest of the continent in recent weeks.
European Commission researchers meanwhile said nearly half (46 percent) of EU territory was exposed to warning-level drought. Eleven percent was at an alert level and crops were already suffering from lack of water.
Blazes in France, Greece, Portugal and Spain have destroyed thousands of hectares of land.
An area of nine kilometres (5.5 miles) long and eight kilometres wide was still ablaze near France’s Dune de Pilat, Europe’s highest sand dune, turning picturesque landscapes, popular campsites and pristine beaches into a scorching mess.
The blaze was literally “blowing things up”, such was its ferocity, said Marc Vermeulen, head of the local fire service. “Pine trunks of 40 years are bursting.”
A total of 8,000 people were being evacuated from near the dune Monday as a precaution, as changing winds blew thick smoke into residential areas, officials said.
Hurriedly packing her car, Patricia Monteil said she would go to her daughter’s who lived in another part of the district. “But if that goes up in flames too, I don’t know what to do.”
Around 32,000 tourists or residents have been forced to decamp in France, many to emergency shelters.
On Monday evening, prosecutors in the southwest city of Bordeaux said a man suspected of having started one of the fires in the region had been taken into custody.
In Spain, fire burning in the northwestern province of Zamora claimed the life of a 69-year-old shepherd, regional authorities said. On Sunday, a fireman died in the same area.
Later on Monday it was reported that an office worker in his fifties had died from heatstroke in Madrid.
Authorities have reported around 20 wildfires still raging from the south to Galicia in the far northwest, where blazes have destroyed around 4,500 hectares (more than 11,000 acres) of land.
‘Enjoy the sunshine’
The fires in Portugal claimed two more lives in the northern Vila Real region, after a car carrying two local villagers crashed off the road as they appeared to be trying to flee a fire zone, local officials said.
“We found the car and these two people, aged around 70 years, completely burnt,” the mayor of Murca, Mario Artur Lopez, told SIC Noticias television. The victims were from the nearby village of Penabeice, he added.
Almost the entire country has been on high alert for wildfires despite a slight drop in temperatures, which last Thursday hit 47C — a record for July.
The fires have already killed two other people, injured around 60 and destroyed between 12,000 and 15,000 hectares of land there.
In Britain, the government, already on the ropes after a series of scandals that forced Prime Minister Boris Johnson to quit, has been accused of taking the situation too lightly.
Johnson was criticised for having failed to attend an emergency meeting on the crisis on Sunday, instead hosting a farewell party at his state-funded country retreat.
And medics condemned comments by Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, who appeared to minimise the threat from the extreme heat when he told Britons to “enjoy the sunshine”.
The Sun tabloid headlined its coverage of the heat “British Bake Off”, observing that the “scorcher” was making the UK hotter than Ibiza where temperatures were a comparatively low 30C.
The extreme temperatures saw flights suspended at Luton Airport near London and Royal Air Force base Brize Norton due to “defects” on the runway, with no let-up expected for Tuesday.
Trains were cancelled and schools closed in affected areas.
In Brighton, on England’s south coast, bank worker Abu Bakr put the heatwave in perspective.
“I come from Sudan,” he said. “Forty, forty-five degrees is just the norm. This is as good as it can be.”
Spain and Portugal were sweltering in their second heatwave in a month on Monday, with scorching temperatures also expected in France and Britain in the coming days.
People in Spain baked with the temperature in the central town of Candeleda hitting a stifling 43.3 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit) shortly after 6 pm (1600 GMT), according to Spain’s meteorological agency AEMET.
The mercury meanwhile hit 42.4C in the southern city of Seville.
The southwestern cities of Badajoz and Merida also saw temperatures of 42C.
AEMET forecast 46C in Badajoz on Thursday and Friday with Seville predicted to swelter in 45C on Wednesday and Thursday.
Japan’s government warned Monday of a power crunch as extreme heat hits the country, with temperature records toppling and Tokyo’s rainy season declared over at the earliest date on record.
Temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) were forecast in Tokyo throughout Monday, and the mercury is not expected to drop below 34 until Sunday, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).
The power warning was initially issued for late Monday afternoon, and was subsequently extended to cover the same time on Tuesday, because solar generation dips as the sun sets.
Spain, France and other western European nations on Saturday sweltered under a blistering June heatwave that has sparked forest fires and concerns that such early summer blasts of hot weather will now become the norm.
The weather on Saturday was the peak of a June heatwave that is in line with scientists’ predictions that such phenomena will now strike earlier in the year thanks to global warming.
The French southwestern town of Biarritz, one of the country’s most sought-after seaside resorts, saw its highest all-time temperature Saturday of 41 degrees, state forecaster Meteo France said.
Queues of hundreds of people and traffic jams formed outside aquatic leisure parks in France, with people seeing water as the only refuge from the devastating heat.
With the River Seine off-limits to bathing, scorched Parisians took refuge in the city’s fountains.
Temperatures in France could reach as high as 42 degrees C in some areas on Saturday, Meteo France said, adding that June records had already been beaten in 11 areas on Friday.
“This is the earliest heatwave ever recorded in France” since 1947, said Matthieu Sorel, a climatologist at Meteo France.
With “many monthly or even all-time temperature records likely to be beaten in several regions,” he called the weather a “marker of climate change”.
– Forest fires rage –
In a major incident in France, a fire triggered by the firing of an artillery shell in military training in the Var region of southern France was burning some 200 hectares (495 acres) of vegetation, local authorities said.
“There is no threat to anyone except 2,500 sheep who are being evacuated and taken to safety,” said local fire brigade chief Olivier Pecot.
The fire came from the Canjeurs military camp, the biggest such training site in Western Europe. Fire services’ work was impeded by the presence of non-exploded munitions in the deserted area but four Canadair plans have been deployed to water bomb the fires.
Farmers in the country are having to adapt. Daniel Toffaloni, a 60-year-old farmer near the southern city of Perpignan, now only works from “daybreak until 11.30am” and in the evening, as temperatures in his tomato greenhouses reach a sizzling 55 degrees C.
Forest fires in Spain on Saturday had burned nearly 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of land in the northwest Sierra de la Culebra region.
The flames forced several hundred people from their homes, and 14 villages were evacuated.
Some residents were able to return on Saturday morning, but regional authorities warned the fire “remains active”.
Firefighters were still battling blazes in several other regions, including woodlands in Catalonia.
Temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) were forecast in parts of the country on Saturday — with highs of 43 degrees C expected in the north-eastern city of Zaragoza.
There have also been fires in Germany, where temperatures were forecast to go as high as 40 degrees C on Saturday, although only reached 36 degrees C. A blaze in the Brandenburg region around Berlin had spread over about 60 hectares by Friday evening.
– Foretaste of future –
Dutch authorities said they expect Saturday to be the hottest day of the year so far.
The UK recorded its hottest day of the year on Friday, with temperatures reaching over 30 degrees C in the early afternoon, meteorologists said.
“I think at the moment people are just enjoying it being hot but if it gets any hotter than this, which I think it is meant to, then that’s a concern,” said Claire Moran, an editor in London.
Several towns in northern Italy have announced water rationing and the Lombardy region may declare a state of emergency as a record drought threatens harvests.
Italy’s dairy cows were putting out 10 per cent less milk, the main agricultural association, Coldiretti, said Saturday.
With temperatures far above the cows’ “ideal climate” of 22-24 degrees C, animals were drinking up to 140 litres of water per day, double their normal intake, and producing less due to stress, it said.
Experts warned the high temperatures were caused by worrying climate change trends.
“As a result of climate change, heatwaves are starting earlier,” said Clare Nullis, a spokeswoman for the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva.
“What we’re witnessing today is, unfortunately, a foretaste of the future” if concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to rise and push global warming towards 2 degrees C from pre-industrial levels, she added.
Tens of millions of people in India were suffering Friday under a severe heatwave that has pushed the temperature to a nine-year high in Delhi as monsoon rains run behind schedule.
Heatwaves have killed over 6,500 people in the world’s second-most populous nation since 2010, and scientists say climate change is making them harsher and more frequent.
Daytime temperatures were above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) for the fourth consecutive day Friday across the states of Rajasthan, Haryana and New Delhi.
Large parts of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in central India were also wilting.
New Delhi saw 43.1 degrees Celsius on Thursday, the hottest July day in the city since 2012 when the capital sweltered under 43.5 degrees Celsius.
On Friday, the temperature again shot up to 41 degrees Celsius in the city of 20 million.
Temperatures have remained more than seven degrees Celsius above normal for this time of the year, prompting India’s weather office to classify it as “severe extreme heat”.
India Meteorological Department said the mercury will stay above 40 degrees for the coming week because of the late arrival of the southwest monsoon and a hot wind known as the Loo blowing in from the desert state of Rajasthan and Pakistan.
The weather department has issued a heatwave alert for the region, with forecasters also saying some isolated places will witness thunderstorms.
The intense heat has driven up power consumption as more and more people turned to air-conditioners and air coolers.
Delhi’s power consumption peaked to nearly 7,000 megawatts (MW) this week, 10 to 15 percent higher than the average demand at this time of the year.
In Punjab in the north, authorities announced a two-day weekly closure of industrial units and reduced office hours for its employees after electricity demand topped 15,000 megawatts due.
Forecasters predict that the annual rains will not hit New Delhi before July 7, making it the most delayed monsoon in the national capital since 2006.
The deadliest year for India was 2015 when over 2,000 were killed by intense heat.
Currently, just five percent of Indian households have air conditioning compared to 90 percent in the United States and 60 percent in China.
But the market is forecast to boom in the coming years, driving up energy consumption in what is already the world’s third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide.
The refrigerants inside AC units also exacerbate global warming, while the heat that the machines generate make cities even hotter.
The country of 1.3 billion people also suffers from severe water shortages with tens of millions lacking running water.
Parts of Delhi and elsewhere regularly see scuffles when tankers arrive to deliver water. In 2019 Chennai made international headlines when the southern city ran out of water entirely.
Swathes of the United States and Canada endured record-setting heat on Sunday, forcing schools and Covid-19 testing centers to close and the suspension of an Olympic athletics qualifying event, with forecasters warning of worse to come.
The village of Lytton in British Columbia broke the record for Canada’s all-time high, with a temperature of 46.6 degrees Celsius (116 Fahrenheit), said Environment Canada.
And in Eugene, Oregon, a temperature of 43.3 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit) forced organisers to postpone the final day of the US Olympic track and field trials, moving afternoon events to the evening.
Because of climate change, record-setting temperatures are becoming more frequent. Globally, the decade to 2019 was the hottest recorded, and the five hottest years have all occurred within the last five years.
On Sunday in Seattle, Washington state, the temperature hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), a record that surprised residents not used to warmer climes.
“Normally it’s probably like, maybe 60, 70 degrees (Fahrenheit) is a great day, everybody is outside in shorts and T-shirts, but this is like — this is ridiculous,” one city resident told AFP. “I feel like I’m in the desert or something.”
Another said: “You just stand around and you’re like — you can’t breathe, it’s so hot.”
Doug Farr, manager of the city’s weekly Ballard Farmers Market, said the site had to close early Sunday because of the heat — something it normally only has to do for snow.
“I think this is the first time we’ve ever closed early because of the heat,” he said.
Oregon’s biggest city, Portland, hit 44.4 degrees Celsius (112 degrees Fahrenheit) Sunday, the US National Weather Service (NWS) said, breaking the city’s record set a day earlier.
Across the border in Canada, stores reportedly sold out of portable air conditioners and fans, while cities opened emergency cooling centers and outreach workers handed out bottles of water and hats.
Several Covid-19 vaccination clinics were canceled and schools announced they would close on Monday.
‘Extreme and prolonged heat’
More than 40 new highs were recorded throughout British Columbia over the weekend, including in the ski resort town of Whistler.
And forecasters said hotter days were to come.
“A prolonged, dangerous and historic heat wave will persist through this week,” Environment Canada said, forecasting temperatures near 40 degrees Celsius in several regions.
It issued alerts for British Columbia, Alberta, and parts of Saskatchewan, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
The NWS issued a similar warning.
The heat has been blamed on a high-pressure ridge trapping warm air in the region. The NWS previously said it would “likely be one of the most extreme and prolonged heat waves in the recorded history of the Inland Northwest.”
Nick Bond, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington, said the freak weather event was not entirely due to climate change, but was exacerbated by it.
“Climate change is a factor here, but definitely a secondary one,” he said.
“The main thing going on is this highly unusual weather pattern, but that being said climate change is real, our temperatures have warmed here, especially summer night-time temperatures and so that has just kind of raised the baseline and made this heat event that much more severe.”
Temperatures in France are expected to hit a record high on Friday, as Europe swelters in a heatwave blamed for several deaths, including a 17-year-old farm worker in Spain.
The Spanish teenager felt dizzy while helping harvest wheat in the southern Andalusia region.
After a dip in a swimming pool to cool off, he collapsed with convulsions and was rushed to hospital in the town of Cordoba where he later died, the regional government said.
Elsewhere in Spain, a 93-year-old man collapsed and died on the street in the northern city of Valladolid, police said, who gave heatstroke as the cause of death.
Heat-related deaths have also been reported in Italy, France and Germany, mainly among the elderly.
France was bracing for what could be the hottest day in its history on Friday — an extraordinary event for June.
Temperatures are forecast to reach 45 degrees Celsius in the south, beating the current record of 44.1 degrees dating to the catastrophic heatwave of August 2003.
That year, nearly 15,000 people are estimated to have died because of the heat, many of them elderly people at home.
The episode has caused every governments since to be extremely vigilant during heatwaves.
In Montpellier, 81-year-old Suzette Allegre was up early to do her shopping.
By 8:00 am, “the sun is already burning hot and you can smell the pollution,” she told AFP, saying she was rushing home to barricade herself indoors.
The area surrounding Montpellier and the nearby city of Nimes — where the 2003 record was set — was placed on the highest alert level Friday, as were Marseille and Avignon.
Most school outings were called off in the four areas and all sports classes cancelled.
– Fire hydrants uncapped –
Health Minister Agnes Buzyn warned those tempted to plunge into cold water, both young and old, to do so only in designated public bathing areas, adding that four people had drowned since the beginning of the week.
On Thursday, Buzyn complained that despite a barrage of public health warnings on radio, TV and on public transport, some parents were still leaving their children in hot cars and joggers seen exercising in the midday heat.
Also Thursday, a six-year-old Syrian child was seriously injured after being catapulted into the air by water gushing from an open fire hydrant and then crashing to the ground.
The incident occurred in the multi-ethnic Saint-Denis neighbourhood north of Paris, where “uncapping” hydrants has long been used as a way to cool off.
In the Italian city of Milan, a 72-year-old homeless man was found dead at the main train station on Thursday after falling ill due to the heatwave.
And a day earlier, at least four people died in Germany in bathing accidents.
– Flaming manure –
In Spain, firefighters were continuing to battle a large forest fire in the northeastern Catalonia region.
Catalonia’s forest service said the fire likely began when an “improperly managed” pile of manure at a chicken farm spontaneously combusted in the extreme heat.
Hundreds of firefighters backed by troops and aerial water bombers were trying to bring it under control.
They were hampered by roasting 44-degree temperatures and very low humidity according to David Borrell, head of the Catalan fire department.
Spain’s north-east was on red heatwave alert denoting “extreme risk”.
The stifling temperatures have caused air quality to nosedive in some European cities, prompting local authorities to take anti-pollution measures.
In Paris, Lyon and Marseille, authorities have banned the most-polluting cars from the roads in recent days.
Residents of the city of Grenoble were unable to use two municipal swimming pools despite the record temperatures, due to a row sparked by use of the full-body Islamic burkini swimsuit.
Lifeguards had asked for the shutdown after Muslim women clad in burkinis had gone to swim in defiance of a municipal ban on the outfits.