Parts of Britain are on fire after the country experienced its hottest day on record on Tuesday in conditions described as ‘absolute hell’.
The London Fire Brigade declared it a “major incident” as several major fires raged across the capital. London Mayor Sadiq Khan called the situation “critical” as the fire department received five times as many calls as usual.
At least 34 weather stations across the country recorded the highest temperatures on record, according to the Met Office, the British equivalent of the Bureau of Meteorology.
In many places, the mercury column exceeded 40 degrees Celsius for the first time since the start of registration.
A record temperature of 40.3°C was recorded at the Royal Air Force Base Coningsby in Lincolnshire in the east of England.
At Heathrow Airport, southwest of London, temperatures reached 40.2°C. The temperature then matched that of St. James Park in central London, close to Buckingham Palace. Temperatures reached 40.1°C in Kew Gardens, west London.
Britain has never had temperatures above forty degrees before. The previous high was 38.7C in Cambridge, in the east of England, in 2019.
Scotland broke the record for the hottest day ever, recording 34.8C at Charterhall, a former airfield about 70km south of Edinburgh.
The astonishing heat was caused by desert air from the Sahara that blows north over most of Western Europe.
Summer in London is hotter than in most Australian capitals
Unlike the UK, the hottest days in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Hobart, Darwin and Brisbane this year were several degrees below 40°C. Although on January 11, Adelaide bypassed London with a temperature of 40.3 ° C, and on February 5, Perth reached 42.5 ° C.
Sky-hot temperatures took their toll across Britain, with roads melted, trains canceled and planes swerved as the runway began to ooze.
‘major incident’ declared
On Tuesday afternoon, as temperatures peaked, the London Fire Brigade declared a “major incident” as firefighters battled several major fires across the city. The organization pleaded with people not to call them unless it was a real emergency.
Fire brigades in Hertfordshire, north of London, and Leicestershire, in central England, have also reported serious incidents.
On a typical day, the service handled fewer than 350 calls for help, and on Tuesday evening the number of calls reached 1,600.
In addition to London, major fires have occurred in Leeds, Kent and Norfolk, in the East Anglia region of England.
Aerial photography from UK sky news showed several burning buildings in Wennington, a village in east London. The wind blew the flames from the field onto the houses. Several houses were destroyed with the participation of 15 fire engines.
“I saw black smoke and helicopters came in and more police came to our area and it really spread really fast,” Wennington resident Lynn Subberton told Sky News.
“It just spread so fast, I think the wind caused the fire to move in our direction towards the village.”
A huge fire could be seen by motorists on the busy M25 motorway encircling London.
Flames were also seen close to the main A2 motorway, which links London to the Channel-crossing port of Dover.
Two people have been taken to hospital with smoke inhalation from another fire in Dagenham, East London.
One firefighter told Sky the conditions were “absolute hell”.
Thousands of Britons have been working from home to escape the heat and the resulting chaos. Working from home is no longer recommended in the UK, unlike in Australia following the latest Covid health advice.
At least 171 schools closed their doors, while others were ordered to wear looser clothing instead of uniforms.
Hospitals have canceled non-emergency operations due to air conditioning failure, and mail carriers have been ordered to stop delivering mail due to extreme heat.
The weather bureau issued its first red heat warning and warned that “thousands of people could die” due to extreme heat.
Much of Western Europe is also suffering from the sweltering desert heat from North Africa.
Areas of western France have been compared to a “thermal apocalypse” when mercury levels soared to forty degrees and thousands of hectares of land burned in raging and deadly forest fires.
More than 1,000 people have died in continental Europe due to extreme heat.
Originally published as The UK recorded the hottest day in history: the temperature reached 40.2°C