UK breaks temperature record due to heat wave in Europe

A severe heat wave on Tuesday left much of Western Europe sweltering, leading to rampant wildfires and overwhelming emergency services as it pushed northward and raised temperatures to record levels.

The country’s weather service said that after the warmest night in the UK in Charlwood, it was previously recorded 39.1 degrees Celsius (102.4 Fahrenheit). near Gatwick Airport, south of London.

“If confirmed, this would be the highest temperature ever recorded in the UK,” the Met Office weather agency said.

“Temperatures are likely to rise even further today,” he added, predicting that the UK will break the 40-degree mark for the first time.

Experts blame climate change for the latest heatwave and point out that more frequent extreme weather will only get worse in the coming years.

High temperatures have led to an unprecedented red extreme heat warning across much of England and Wales, with some rail lines closed as a precaution and schools closed in some areas.

“Most of our infrastructure is simply not designed for this temperature,” Transportation Minister Grant Shapps told Sky News.

“Let record temperatures in the UK and tragic deaths in Europe be the wake-up call the world needs to stop climate change and take no more lives,” said Tim Wainwright, chief executive of charity WaterAid.

France’s national weather bureau said Monday saw the highest temperatures ever recorded in various cities in the country’s west.

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– Forest fires –

The western region of Brittany, which is usually cool and often humid in summer, has set a new record for temperatures above 40°C.

As the heat wave moves northeast on Tuesday, giving way to cooler air from the Atlantic offering some respite, weather officials raised their upper red alert level in 15 departments.

But dozens of departments remained on an orange alert, with temperatures expected to exceed 40°C in the east and south and severe thunderstorms forecast locally.

The heatwave – the second heat wave to sweep across parts of Europe in recent weeks – has led to deadly wildfires in France, Greece, Portugal and Spain, destroying vast swaths of land.

Firefighters in southwest France were still struggling to contain two major fires that had caused widespread destruction and forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

Some 1,700 firefighters from across the country, backed by significant air assets, are fighting two fires that have burned nearly 17,000 acres (42,000 acres) of forest so far.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Patrick Dave, mayor of La Teste-de-Buch, the site of the hell that prompted the mass evacuations.

“Economically, it will be very difficult for them and very difficult for the city because we are a tourist city and we need a (tourist) season.”

In Brittany, a region not normally affected by wildfires, hundreds of firefighters, specialized vehicles and water-jet aircraft fought fires in the Finistère region.

Several small fires have been reported in the region.

– Lethal outcomes –

Prosecutors in the southwestern city of Bordeaux said late Monday that a man suspected of starting one of the fires had been taken into custody.

In Spain – almost 10 days after the last heat wave – more than a dozen fires continued to rage on Tuesday, including in the northwestern province of Zamora, which had already experienced a major fire last month.

Known as one of the largest wolf sanctuaries in Europe, it reduced nearly 30,000 acres of land to ashes during a June fire.

This week, about 6,000 people had to be evacuated from there after the flames destroyed several thousand hectares of meadows and forests, authorities in the region said.

Train traffic between Madrid and Galicia in the northwest of the country was suspended due to fires on both sides of the track.

Several people have died in recent days due to the fires, and separately an office worker in his 50s died of heatstroke in Madrid.

In Portugal, more than 1,400 firefighters have been fighting fires in the center and north of the country despite a clear drop in temperatures in recent days.

A couple in their 70s died on Monday after they ran off the road while trying to escape the fire in their car.

Almost the entire country is on high alert for wildfires despite a slight drop in temperatures, which last Thursday reached 47 degrees Celsius – a record for July.

The fires have already killed two people, injured about 60 and destroyed between 12,000 and 15,000 hectares of land.

– Heat up –

Elsewhere, temperatures can locally exceed 40°C in Belgium near the French border, prompting the Royal Meteorological Institute to declare its highest alert level.

Major public museums, mostly in Brussels, took the unusual step of giving people over 65 free access on Tuesday to help keep them calm.

In Germany, temperatures are expected to reach 40 degrees in the west.

On Monday, two firefighters were injured while fighting a forest fire in a mountainous area in Saxony.

A hot and dry summer has raised drought fears and the president of the German Farmers’ Association has warned of “serious losses” in food production.

Henning Krist, who grows wheat and other crops in the state of Brandenburg, told AFP that his farm’s yields are about 20 percent below the annual average.

“We have had almost no rain for several months combined with high temperatures,” he said.

“We are somewhat accustomed to drought and dry spells, but this year has been very unusual.”

European Commission researchers said on Monday that 46 percent of the EU is affected by drought at alarming levels. Eleven percent were at risk, and crops were already suffering from water shortages.