Europe braces for a record heatwave

Large parts of Europe, including France, Germany, Italy and Spain, are expecting exceptionally warm weather this week, prompting public health concerns. It is vital that people check on their neighbours during the heatwave, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said in Geneva. The high temperatures will be especially tough for the elderly, for young children and for people with illnesses, IFRC’s European health co-ordinator Davron Mukhamadiev said in a statement. “Our message this week is simple: look after yourself, your family and your neighbours. A phone call or a knock on the door could save a life,” he said. The Red Cross warned that heatwaves can have catastrophic consequences.

It pointed to the year 2003, when an estimated 70,000 people died in Europe during a heatwave. In France, which saw 15,000 temperature-related deaths that year, the national weather agency Meteo France has issued an orange “heatwave” covering more than two thirds of the country. It said the heat would climax between today and Friday. In Paris, authorities are setting up extra drinking fountains and water misting devices. Air conditioned spaces will be opened in the afternoons for vulnerable people. As the heatwave was predicted to worsen air pollution, police said older vehicles would be banned today from the capital and its inner suburbs. Furthermore, the French government decided on Monday to postpone until next week final exams for secondary school students, to spare them from having to sit the tests in extreme heat.


People cool themselves down in the fountain of the Trocadero esplanade in Paris yesterday.

The heat today could break German records, with temperatures of 39 degrees Celsius forecast in the region around Frankfurt and above 40 in some other places. Germany’s highest-ever temperature was recorded on August 7, 2015, in the Bavarian town of Kitzingen at 40.3 degrees, according to the country’s DWD weather agency. Temperatures were already high yesterday, particularly in south-western Germany, where the mercury reached close to 40 degrees in some areas. Many schools were forced to send children home. In Italy, weather website warned of a bout of “explosive heat” also pushing temperatures to 40 degrees and beyond in northern cities like Milan and Bologna, and on the island of Sardinia.According to the website, it could be the warmest June to date in certain parts of Italy, with temperatures peaking between tomorrow and Friday. In Spain, weather agency AEMET said the heatwave would start today and last “at least until Monday,” with temperatures peaking at 42 degrees in the north-eastern Ebro Valley.

As hot weather spread also to Austria, the city of Innsbruck gave carriage horses a day off given that temperatures were expected to climb above 32 degrees. Last year, the city authority introduced a ban for tourist carriages at or above this temperature. Further south, temperatures were expected to reach 37 degrees on the Adriatic coast of Slovenia and Croatia. Storms were predicted in Croatia’s eastern flatlands, possibly affecting busy traffic routes linking Germany and Austria to Greece and Turkey.

Parched tourists seek gelato and some shade
Tourists in Rome and Paris yesterday scaled back their sightseeing in sweltering temperatures, dousing themselves at fountains and cooling down with ice cream as a heatwave continued in continental Europe. “With this hot sun we try and keep to the cooler places,” said Fari, a Spanish tourist to the Italian capital, speaking by the Trevi fountain. “From 8 o’clock we are out looking at Rome, and from midday we eat ice cream,” he added.The temperature had already reached 31 degrees Celsius early in the morning with high levels of humidity. In Paris, locals and tourists stripped down to paddle in the Trocadero fountains by the Eiffel Tower. “It’s really, really uncomfortable right now. The heat is really high, I think it’s over 35 degrees. So for us, doing a tour of two hours and a half, three hours, is really, really difficult,” said 32-year-old Argentinean tour guide to the city Ayelen Rozitchner.

Authorities in Paris are setting up “cool rooms” in municipal buildings, opening pools for late-night swimming and installing extra drinking fountains. The heatwave is also affecting Spain, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium. In Germany, meteorologist Andreas Friedrich said the German weather service had issued heat warnings based on the felt air temperature, which incorporates how people feel when they are clothed and exposed to the sun. The service expects record felt air temperatures today in the southwest of Germany of some 43C. “That means extreme thermal stress. And that means being very cautious, avoid physical activities during the day, be in the shade, and of course drink a lot of liquids,” Friedrich said. At the coastal town of Eloro in Sicily, 41 cars were engulfed in flames on Monday after a fire broke out close to a car park where beachgoers had left their vehicles. The fire brigade said it was not clear what caused it but hot temperatures and dry terrain caused the fire to spread rapidly.

Sources and photo-credits: Gulf Times, DPA