France and Italy on Thursday reported new victims of a heatwave that has engulfed Europe for the last two weeks, bringing the number of deaths to more than 80 people, as storms also took their toll.
High temperatures persisted in northern Italy, Germany and southeast Europe, but forecasters predicted that spreading storms and rain would bring respite to many areas of the baking continent.
Rain would come as welcome relief to farmers, who in many countries have reported withering crops, and would also help boost perilously low water levels.
The French health-monitoring authority InVS updated the death toll in France to 64, from a previous estimate of 40, and the heat was also blamed for a further three deaths in the north of Italy.
This year, there has been no repetition of the massive loss of life caused by the last major heatwave in 2003 when in France alone 15,000 people died.
Factors such as greater awareness, slightly lower temperatures and preventative action by governments to protect the elderly are thought to have helped limit the number of deaths.
The director of the French InVS health monitoring body, Gilles Brucker, warned that the number of deaths could rise in France, even though wet weather lowered temperatures across most of France on Thursday.
Separately on Thursday, French weather office Meteo France announced that July had been the hottest month on record, on average three to four degrees above the norm.
In Italy, a victim was found dead in his apartment in Padua and two elderly people also died, one in his garden near Padua and the other in north Lombardy during a walk to cool down.
Italian Agriculture Minister Paolo de Castra called the heatwave "dramatic" in an interview with newspaper La Repubblica and authorities have estimated the damage to the country's agricultural sector at about US$637 million.
Figures showing the fall in water levels in Italy were also cause for concern.
The level of the River Po, which runs across the north of Italy, fell by 7cm on Wednesday at one measuring station.
On Wednesday, French Environment Minister Nelly Olin had warned that groundwater levels in the Paris region were at their lowest level in 20 years and said that water restrictions were in place for nearly half of the country.
"It needs to rain without storms. That would be the ideal situation but I don't think we're there yet today," she told French television channel France 2.
In Germany temperatures were back above 30oC on Thursday, after heavy storms the night before, and a motorway was closed after concrete sections cracked and lifted in the heat.
But storms were the order of the day again on Thursday with one man being killed and several others, including seven firefighters, injured by lightning.
The 19-year-old man was killed near the northwestern city of Bremen as he tried to close the window of his car.
The A5 highway near the western city of Frankfurt was set to undergo emergency repairs overnight Friday after pieces of the surface lifted 20cm to 30cm.
Temperatures in Germany were expected to reach 38oC in some parts on Thursday before cooling over the weekend when more storms were forecast.
On Wednesday night, storms above Paris led to the diversion of three Air France planes to Lille airport in the north of the country and caused 152 emergency incidents.
In Spain, where nine people have died so far from the heat, temperatures fell by two to five degrees on Thursday, where storms and rain were expected.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
LIFELONG LOSS: Jiro Hamasumi, who was not quite born when an atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, lost his father and other relatives, but said he thinks about his father daily As Japan marks 75 years since the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the last generation of nuclear bomb survivors is working to ensure their message lives on after them. The “hibakusha” — literally “person affected by the bomb” — have for decades been a powerful voice calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. There are an estimated 136,700 left, many of whom were infants or soon to be born at the time of the attacks. The average age of a survivor now is a little over 83, according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, lending an urgency as they share their testimonies