A heat-wave sweeping central and southeastern Europe has killed at least 13 people this week, with soaring temperatures causing forest fires and damaging crops, officials said on Friday.
In Romania, where temperatures reached about 40oC on Friday, the Health Ministry said at least nine people have died since Monday because of the heat wave.
In Austria, where highs in most parts of the Alpine country have hovered near or above 35oC for days, the Health Ministry said the deaths of three people in the country's southeast on Thursday were likely heat-related.
Austrian media reported late Friday that at least five people had died due to the heat this week, including an elderly woman who collapsed on a Vienna street Friday afternoon.
On Thursday, a 56-year-old woman collapsed and died in downtown Zagreb, Croatia, of what doctors believed was a heat-related heart attack. Temperatures in the Balkan country reached about 40oC on Friday.
Elsewhere in the region, in parts of Slovakia and Hungary, authorities distributed free water in some cities.
In the eastern Hungarian town of Kiskunhalas temperatures reached a record 41.9oC, according to the country's national weather center.
Firefighters in Greece, where the country's Fire Service on Thursday reported 115 fires in a 24-hour period, struggled to contain a blaze at an old army base near the capital Athens, where temperatures reached 41oC.
France, where the weather is normal for this time of year, is lending a hand to firefighters in Greece. Two Canadair firefighting planes left Friday morning for Greece and will return home Sunday night.
The heat has also sparked forest fires in parts of Italy, Romania and Bulgaria, where a state of emergency has been declared in the southern districts of Haskovo and Stara Zagora.
Strong winds and high temperatures are complicating efforts to contain the blazes, and Bulgarian authorities have called on army and police units for help.
The extreme heat and lack of rain is also causing concern among farmers in the area.
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
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