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Dublin: 7°C Thursday 15 April 2021

Seven dead in Spain as Europe bakes in near-record temperatures

Europe has baked in near-record temperatures but some respite is on the horizon after weeks of nonstop sunshine.

Spain, Palma de Mallorca
Spain, Palma de Mallorca
Image: DPA/PA Images

THE DEATH TOLL in Spain has risen to seven after a 40-year-old German man on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage succumbed to heat stroke on Sunday in the eastern region of Extremadura, a spokeswoman for Spain’s Guardia Civil police force told AFP.

Local officials also recorded other heat stroke deaths in the Extremadura and Catalonia regions.

Spanish firefighters are benefitting from calmer winds, gaining control of a wildfire in the southwestern province of Huelva, just across the border from the Algarve in southern Portugal.

Temperatures remained high, especially in the southeast where they were forecast to hit 40-42 C.

Europe has baked in near-record temperatures but some respite is on the horizon after weeks of nonstop sunshine as people come to terms with what may prove to be the region’s new normal in an era of climate change.

France Europe Weather People cool off under showers at Paris Plage along the Seine river in Paris Source: Michel Euler via PA Images

In France, temperatures peaked at around 37 degrees Celsius in southern France on Monday, while the north is due to be even hotter today. On Saturday, temperatures hit their highest levels since a 2003 heatwave killed thousands of mainly elderly people.

Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said people need to take proper care to cope with the heat and warned that everyone had to adapt.

“You need to drink a lot, but also to eat and take salt,” Buzyn said.

“We are probably going to adapt our warnings in the coming years because this is something we haven’t been seeing until now.”

The emergency services complained that, despite public health warnings about keeping cool and hydrated, there was “still quite a lot of recklessness” – citing the example of an elderly man in Lyon who suffered heart problems while mowing his lawn under the merciless afternoon sun.

The heat has also caused air pollution levels to soar. To try to clear the air, the city of Paris has banned owners of the most polluting categories of vehicles from using their cars on Monday. In the east of the country, authorities have lowered the speed limit by 20 kilometres to try to dispel the smog.

Portugal Wildfire A firefighter works on an active fire on a hillside outside the village of Monchique, in southern Portugal's Algarve region Source: Javier Fergo via PA Images

In Portugal, temperatures have eased slightly but not by enough to make the job of some 1,100 firefighters aided by 160 soldiers in Monchique any easier pending the expected arrival of two Spanish Canadair firefighting planes.

Monchique, in southern Portugal, was shrouded in thick clouds of smoke early Monday after the authorities evacuated several houses overnight, with 24 people injured, one seriously.

Rescue officials initially expressed optimism they were getting the better of the raging fire. But in a new update, they appeared less confident. Abel Gomes, one of the heads of the civil protection service, said the situation “had unfortunately changed”.

“We have witnessed flare-ups of great intensity” fanned by strong winds, he added.

The weather service said that after Saturday’s peak, temperatures were back below 45 C and should continue lower over the next few days.

Weather in Lower Saxony Germany, Hodenhagen: Animal keeper showers the African elephant lady Bibi to cool her down at Serengeti Park Source: DPA/PA Images

Germany expects a fresh spike mid-week to around 39 C before temperatures ease, with official figures showing the average for April-July running 3.6 degrees higher than the 1961-1990 reference period.

Farmers continued to plead for help, with the president of Germany’s farmers’ association, Joachim Rukwied, saying a billion euros ($1.15 billion) in government aid may be necessary as crop failure rates hit 70 percent in some areas.

More than a million children returned to school on Monday in three German states – Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland and Hesse – but some were allowed to go home early because of the heatwave.

The heatwave has hit the low-lying Netherlands hard like many other countries but no one thought it could be a threat to its world-famous system of dams and canals designed to keep the sea at bay.

River levels have fallen so low that seawater is seeping into waterways, and the Rijkswaterstaat, which manages the national water system, has been opening barrages inland to flush it out.

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Meanwhile, in the city of Utrecht, the clock hands on the famous medieval Dom Tower have stood still since Friday at 11:23 after the hot temperatures warped the mechanism.

The European Association of Fruit and Vegetable Processors (Profel), based in neighbouring Belgium, lamented the effect of a third straight year of prolonged drought conditions.

“The extreme weather conditions experienced around Europe can lead to losses on the fields in both quality and quantity,” a Profel statement said, warning of a “severe shortage in supplies in the coming period for all vegetable crops.”

Finland Europe Weather People rest on sleeping mats in a local grocery store, after the store invited customers to attend a sleepover to cool off . Source: AP/PA Images

Wildfires that have been raging across Sweden are abating, emergency services SOS Alarm said, adding that the blazes were down to eight on Monday.

The nation’s far north saw heavy rainfall on Monday, authorities said, after record heat in the Arctic Circle triggered drought and wildfires. Drought is persisting in many other areas of the country.

In neighbouring Finland, a Helsinki supermarket opened its doors overnight Saturday to customers seeking refuge from the heat.

In a video released on Facebook, the K-Supermarket showed customers chilling on mattresses and in sleeping bags.

Greece Forest Fire Flowers are placed outside a burnt compound in Mati, east of Athens. Source: Thanassis Stavrakis via PA Images

Greece is a little cooler but the toll in last month’s wildfire northeast of Athens rose to 91 as a 95-year-old woman died of her injuries, officials said.

Another 36 people remain hospitalised after the July 23 disaster, six of them in critical condition.

- © AFP, 2018

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