Europe braces for blistering June weekend heat

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As the mercury edges towards the 40-degree mark in France, with record temperatures for the month of June expected to be broken, Parisians try to cool off in the shade of the trees on the banks of the Seine, in the centre of the capital. IMAGES

France, Spain and other western European nations braced on Saturday for a sweltering June weekend that is set to break records and sparked concern about forest fires and the effects of climate change.

The weather on Saturday will represent a peak of a June heatwave that is in line with warnings from scientists that such phenomena will now hit earlier than usual thanks to climate change.

But they are due to relent slightly from Sunday with thunderstorms forecast in parts of France and elsewhere in Europe.

“This is the earliest heatwave ever recorded in France” since 1947, said Matthieu Sorel, a climatologist at Meteo France.

In Spain, forest fires burned nearly 9,000 hectares (22,240 acres) of land in the northwest Sierra de la Culebra region on Friday, forcing some 200 people from their homes, regional authorities said.

Firefighters were battling fires in several other regions, including woodlands in Catalonia where weather conditions complicated the fight. 

– Hospitals full –

“Hospitals are at capacity, but are keeping up with demand,” Health Minister Brigitte Bourguignon told reporters in Vienne, near Lyon in the southeast.

The Red Cross also organised efforts to distribute water to the homeless community in Toulouse, where temperatures are expected to soar to 38 degrees Celsius on Saturday. 

Meanwhile rock and metal fans at the music festival Hellfest in western France were sprayed with water from hoses and enormous vaporisers in front of the stage as they headbanged or bounced to an opening-day line-up including Deftones and The Offspring.

Ibrahim Thiaw, executive secretary of the UN convention charged with reversing land degradation, on Friday warned drought was “set to increase in severity and frequency”.

The UK recorded its hottest day of the year on Friday with temperatures reaching over 30 Celsius in the early afternoon, meteorologists said. 

– Climate change –

“As a result of climate change, heatwaves are starting earlier,” said Clare Nullis, a spokeswoman for the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva.

In France, special measures have been taken in care homes for elderly people, still marked by the memory of a deadly 2003 heatwave that claimed at least 15,000 lives.

In the Gironde department, which includes Bordeaux, authorities said all public events outdoors or in non-air-conditioned venues would be banned from 2:00 pm (1200 GMT) on Friday, a measure set to be broadened across the region.

Paris police chief Didier Lallement said only the least polluting vehicles would be allowed to drive in the capital on Saturday due to fine particle pollution.

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Originally published as Europe braces for blistering June weekend heat


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