Thu, Jul 20, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Heat wave sweeps across Europe, claiming six lives

AFP , PARIS

Much of Europe on Tuesday baked in tropical temperatures as high as 40?C in some places in a heat wave that has claimed at least six lives.

Five deaths related to the oppressive heat were recorded on Tuesday alone, following the death Sunday of a man in southern Spain.

In the Netherlands, two people succumbed to the heat during the opening day on Tuesday of an annual four-day walk in the eastern Nijmegen region, the Dutch news agency ANP reported.

The heat wave forced the cancelation of the event, ANP reported.

In France's southwest Bordeaux region, sweltering at 38?C, local authorities said two octogenarians fell victim to hyperthermia. An 85-year-old man died in hospital and a woman, 81, at her home.

In Spain, a 44-year-old man died of heat exhaustion at Orense, in the northwestern region of Galicia, regional officials said, after he had reportedly been working outside as temperatures hit 41.5?C.

Britain, already suffering the hottest day of the year on Tuesday, was braced for its hottest day on record as forecasters predicted temperatures could reach 39?C in parts of England on Wednesday.

The high temperatures revived the specter of the 2003 heat wave, which killed 30,000 people in Europe, half of them in France.

Meteorologists in Germany are warning their countrymen that today could be the hottest day in the year at 38?C, and this month as a whole could be the hottest month in a century.

A spokeswoman for Britain's Met office said about yesterday: "We think there's a possibility of the record being broken in the area to the west of London, where there is a concentration of hot air."

The highest temperature ever recorded in Britain was 38.5?C in Kent on Aug. 10, 2003.

The London underground system, the oldest in the world, was a furnace on Tuesday with a record temperature of 47?C.

Bus passengers fared even worse, with temperatures on buses in London, the main financial district, reaching 52?C.

Britain's trade union body, the TUC, has called for workers to be allowed to cast off their jackets and ties and dress casually to help beat the heat and lessen the reliance on air conditioning.

Scientists have warned pasty Britons who are cooling down in parks and on beaches to use sun block.

Across the Channel, around a quarter of France was affected by the heat wave on Tuesday, predominately in the southwest.

Cyclists competing in the Tour de France sweated through the 187km stage in the Alps, which includes four notorious climbs.

French authorities, who were accused of reacting too slowly to the tragic 2003 heat wave, were leaving little to chance this year, and hospitals and retirement homes were on high alert.

Italy's main farmers' union said the country was suffering one of the worst droughts in 30 years with the situation in the north and the center particularly bad.

Water levels in the lakes of northern Italy have fallen to historic low levels, making the irrigation of crops difficult, the Coldiretti union said in a statement.

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