Three men have died from heatstroke in Spain as Europe sweltered in a record heat wave on Friday, with temperatures hitting a scorching 45°C in some areas and meteorologists saying only scant relief is in sight in the coming days.
A middle-aged man in Barcelona, who local media said appeared to be homeless, was found collapsed on a street and taken to hospital where he later died of heatstroke, Catalonia’s civil protection agency said in a statement.
Two other men — a road worker in his 40s and a 78-year-old pensioner — also died from heatstroke this week, as Spain was set to experience one of its hottest days this summer on Friday, with temperatures expected to top 44°C in Badajos on the border with Portugal, 42°C in Seville and 40°C in Madrid.
In Portugal, temperatures on Thursday topped a record 45°C in Alvega, 150km north of the capital, Lisbon.
The heat wave was expected to reach its peak yesterday, the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere said.
While no “substantial” wildfires have been reported so far, the emergency services said they remain on maximum alert and Portuguese Minister of the Interior Eduardo Cabrita declared a policy of “zero tolerance” toward risky activity, such as barbecues.
Tourism operators, such as Thomas Cook and Alltours, were quoted by German news agency DPA as saying that last-minute bookings for the Mediterranean coast were down, as German holidaymakers sought out cooler temperatures on the North Sea and Baltic coastlines.
In the Netherlands, where the current heat wave is the longest-ever recorded — with temperatures reaching 35°C on Friday — people are beginning to experience water shortages, even if drinking supplies remain unaffected for now.
With almost no rainfall since May, Sweden experienced its hottest July in more than 250 years, with the drought and high temperatures sparking wildfires across the country, even as far north as the Arctic Circle.
The fires have largely abated.
In France, temperatures on Friday passed 40°C for the first time this summer as millions hit the roads for holidays, with sweltering conditions forecast to persist into next week.
Wide swaths of the country have been placed on heat wave alert, with the French Ministry of Social Affairs and Health rolling out a TV and radio campaign alerting people to the dangers of what is expected to be the most intense heat wave since 2006.
French power company EDF announced that it was stopping a reactor at two nuclear power plants to avoid raising the temperature of the water in the Rhone River.
In Britain, the heat wave has hit retail sales, which were down 1.1 percent last month, accountancy firm BDO said.
“While the sunshine and buzz around England’s World Cup run was a boost for pubs and supermarkets, the scorching conditions did not encourage physical shopping and only hindered footfall in shops,” BDO’s Sophie Michael said.
The Belgian road safety authority VIAS reported an increase in the number of road accidents as a result of the heat wave.
“The daily average number of accidents is 15 percent higher during a heat wave. And the accidents are more serious,” VIAS spokesman Stef Willems was quoted by Belgian media as saying.
As many in Poland look for a cool respite from the scorching weather, the police said nearly 250 people had drowned since the beginning of April, including 75 last month alone. Police blamed alcohol-fueled swims in unsupervised areas.
In the Italian capital, Rome, already well-equipped with free drinking water fountains, the authorities are handing out bottles of water to tourists.
The national farmers’ union, Coldiretti, said that milk production was down 15 percent as cows suffered from the heat.
At the same time, ice cream consumption was up 30 percent over the past week, the union said.
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