Temperatures soar into the 40s in Europe
Europe’s heatwave gripped Spain and Portugal yesterday, as governments checked for forest fires. Switzerland let its soldiers wear shorts and a Finnish supermarket invited customers to sleep over to stay cool.
Summer has already brought drought and forest fires as far apart as Britain and Greece, where scores of people died, and Sweden warned of forest fires.
Hot air from North Africa has caused the most severe heatwave since 2003 in Iberia, one of the worst years on record for forest fires.
Portugal’s Civil Protection agency reported 426 firefighters were putting out or checking fire alerts in the north and centre. The worst fires typically only flare up late in the day when the weather is hottest.
Spanish and Portuguese temperatures will remain above 40°C at least until tomorrow, and could rise a further 2 or 3 degrees. That could push them above Europe’s previous record high of 48°C, set in Athens in 1977.
The previous record highs in both Spain and Portugal were just over 47°C. In Portugal, local media ran stories on how temperatures could beat Death Valley in California, one of the hottest places on Earth. “Lisbon will be one of the hottest cities in the world this weekend because it’s 10 in the morning right now and the weather is already way too hot,” said Ana Pascoal, 56, a cleaner at a high-end restaurant. “It really is unbearable.”
Several places in Portugal’s parched southern Alentejo region were forecast to hit 47°C. The country went on high alert in an effort to prevent a repeat of the worst fires in history last year, which killed 114 people.
Francois Jobard, a weather forecaster for Meteo France, said the hot air mass from North Africa “will possibly result in record temperatures in Portugal and Spain, with 45°C expected from now until Saturday, and even hotter than that.”
At the other end of the Mediterranean, Greece was hit by wildfires that killed 91 people last month.
“I don’t want to say anything bad but yesterday, while I was watching TV, I thought the same could happen here but I’m praying it doesn’t,” said Eva Stigliano, a Greek tourist visiting Portugal for the third time. “I’ve been here in the summer but it has never been this hot.”
Lisbon’s temperature reached 43°C, unusual for the coastal capital.
Spanish authorities put out a heatwave warning for most of central Spain, expected to last until tomorrow with temperatures of over 42°C in some parts of Andalusia and Extremadura.
Two men have died of heatstroke in the south-eastern region of Murcia, Cadena Ser radio station reported on Wednesday. They were a 48-year-old man working on roadworks and a 78-year-old man who was working on his allotment, Cadena Ser said.
A branch of the K-Supermarket chain in Helsinki’s Pohjois-Haaga district has invited 100 customers to sleep in its air-conditioned store tonight.
Finland’s August average is 19°C but temperatures approached 30°C this week and few have air-conditioning systems installed at their homes. - Reuters