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Europeans on alert as heatwave intensifies

Europeans on alert as 
heatwave intensifies

AFP
Berlin
Authorities raised alerts on Wednesday as Europe’s record-breaking early-June heatwave threatened to intensify with temperatures heading into the 40 degrees Celsius.
The choking heat has prompted traffic restrictions, sparked forest fires and fanned debate over public nudity in Germany as sweltering citizens stripped off.
Meteorologists blamed a blast of hot air from northern Africa for the heatwave so early in the European summer.
They said it is likely to send thermometers above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in France, Spain and Greece on Thursday and Friday.
Scientists warn that global warming linked to human fossil fuel use could make such scorchers more frequent.
“Global temperatures are increasing due to climate change,” said Len Shaffrey, professor of climate science at the University of Reading.
“The global rise in temperatures means the probability that an extreme heatwave will occur is also increasing.”
In Spain the Aemet meteorological agency on Wednesday said there was a “significant risk” in five northern provinces with temperatures of 42 degrees Celsius expected.
“Hell is coming,” one Spanish TV weather presenter tweeted.
The worst is expected on Friday, when 33 of the 50 Spanish provinces face extreme temperatures, which could reach 44 degrees in Girona.
In France, temperatures “unprecedented” since 1947 when detailed surveys started were expected to reach 39 degrees over two-thirds of the country, said weather service Meteo-France.
Authorities were taking no chances after a heatwave in August 2003 was blamed for 15,000 deaths in France, with television and radio broadcasts issuing warnings.
The French government on Wednesday put another 13 districts on orange heatwave alert — the second-highest level — bringing to 78 out of a total 101 the number facing extreme temperatures.
Some schools are expected to close Thursday and Friday, while several cities including Paris and Lyon restricted traffic to limit a build-up of air pollution.
Parts of the southeast were sweltering in 40-degree heat on Wednesday, with a peak of up to 44 degrees expected on Friday in the region.
In Greece, hospitals and officials were on red alert with temperatures of around 45 degrees nationwide.