A dangerous and prolonged heatwave threatens millions of people in Western Europe as the highest level of heat alerts are issued

The UK, Portugal, Spain and France are facing record high temperatures this week, with little relief in sight.

Hot conditions will continue to aggravate ongoing wildfires in southwestern Europe. Level 3 heat alerts, the highest possible level, are in place for 14 states in Portugal and eastern Spain until the end of the week.

“Heat and health alerts have now been issued across the majority of the country, with temperatures expected to remain consistently high throughout this week,” said Dr Agostinho Sousa, head of extreme events and health protection. to the UK Health Security Agency. .

The UK’s record temperature is 38.7 degrees Celsius (101.7 degrees Fahrenheit), which could be exceeded as early as this weekend, according to the meteorological office.

“Some models have produced maximum temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of the UK over the coming weekend and beyond,” said Rebekah Sherwin of the weather office.

As the country prepares, officials warn of the dangers to vulnerable communities.

“Adverse population-wide health effects are likely to be experienced, not limited to those most vulnerable to extreme heat, resulting in potential serious illness or life-threatening conditions,” the office said. meteorological. “Many more people are likely to visit coastal areas, lakes and rivers, increasing the risk of water safety incidents.”

The UK could also see road closures due to melting surfaces, as well as delays in rail and air travel amid extreme heat.

Spain, Portugal, France and Italy

Before the heat hits the UK, it will bring scorching heat to Spain and Portugal, where “extreme” heat alerts, the highest level, have been issued for 14 states in both countries. Lisbon and Santarém could see temperatures reach 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) as early as Wednesday.

The heat wave is expected to continue at least until the end of the week on the Spanish mainland, the Spanish national meteorological service announced on Monday.

It’s not just the Iberian Peninsula that’s sweltering in the heat. France will also remain warm until the end of the week, reaching temperatures in the mid-30s. Heat alerts cover parts of eastern France, including Toulouse and Bordeaux.

The European region is all too familiar with this. Last month, Europe hit record high temperatures and its second hottest June on record.

“Daily maximum temperatures in Spain, France and Italy have soared above 40C and extreme heat has exacerbated persistent drought conditions in the Po basin,” said the European climate change service Copernicus. .
Much of Italy also experienced a summer heat wave. Verona will see highs reaching 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) by Friday.
Eleven died on July 3 following an ice avalanche on the Marmolada glacier in the Italian Alps. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi blamed the collapse on “the deterioration of the environment and the climatic situation”.

The Italian government last week declared a state of emergency for five regions in northern Italy amid extreme drought conditions.

“Most of us can take advantage of the warm weather when it arrives, but it’s also important to stay hydrated and find shade where possible when the UV rays are strongest, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. “, said Dr. Sousa. “If you have vulnerable family, friends and neighbors, make sure they know how they can protect themselves from the hot weather.”

The threat of forest fires

Several river basins in Portugal are currently showing clear signs of the consequences of the ongoing drought.  An example is the Aldo Lindoso Reservoir, which is currently only at 15.8% capacity.

Thirty-five forest fires in Portugal have so far left 29 injured, the Portuguese civil protection department said at a press conference on Saturday.

The European Commission has mobilized its firefighting fleet to help Portugal, and according to CNN Portugal, more than 80 municipalities in 10 districts are at maximum fire risk for the next few days.
The Ourém fire, 80 miles north of Lisbon, Portugal, has ravaged nearly 5,000 acres since July 7. It is currently the largest in the region, while hundreds of firefighters are working to contain it.
Heat will increase fire hazard as dry conditions progress. The Portuguese government has declared a “state of emergency” to bolster emergency services ahead of the heatwave. According to the European Forest Fire Information System, most of the country is in “extreme” to “very extreme” fire danger throughout the week.
Coruche, Santarém could see a high of 48 degrees (118 degrees Fahrenheit) on Thursday, which would break an all-time high for Portugal, according to the Portuguese Institute of the Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA).
The IPMA also said more than 96% of the country is experiencing “severe” to “extreme” drought, the two highest levels, which creates a dry environment that can easily spark wildfires.

The critical period for fires in Portugal runs from July 1 to September 30. Where there is an extreme fire hazard, the burning of recreational bonfires, trash piles, fireworks or fires of any kind is prohibited. Certain forest areas may also be reserved for unauthorized persons.

CNN’s Sharon Braithwaite, Duarte Mendonca, Al Goodman and Benjamin Brown contributed to this report.

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