Europe swelters in heatwave, 20 dead in France

By James Mackenzie

PARIS (Reuters) – A heatwave in France has probably killed
more than 20 people, including a 15-month-old baby, officials
said on Friday, and the rest of Europe also sweltered with no
sign of temperatures dropping.

Temperatures were not as high as they had been on previous
days but authorities warned people to take precautions.

“Desert London,” a headline in Britain’s Evening Standard
newspaper said over a photo of a parched Hyde Park on Friday.

“This is not the Sahara or Serengeti — these remarkable
pictures show how London’s parks have been turned dry, brown
and dusty by the drought,” the newspaper said.

A severe drought, said to be the worst in a century in the
south of England, is making itself felt and temperatures hit a
July record of 36.3 Celsius (97.3 Fahrenheit) earlier this

British farmers have begun harvesting wheat fields early
because of the dry weather.

In Spain, a sunbather died in Barcelona from the heat and a
37-year-old man died in hospital on Friday after collapsing
from heat exhaustion while working in a greenhouse in Almeria
on the south coast the day before.

Six people were reported dead from heat-related problems so
far this Spanish summer.

As in the last major heatwave in 2003, which in France
lasted less than a month but killed around 15,000 people, most
of the victims were elderly people or the infirm.

A health ministry official said a baby died in Paris where
temperatures hit 37 Celsius earlier this week, but provided no
further details.

Of the other victims, 10 were aged 80 or over, four
collapsed at their workplace, two died while playing sport, two
were homeless and one was an obese youth “in poor physical


Temperatures well above 30 Celsius have been registered
across France over the past week and weather forecasters say
the heatwave looks set to continue well into next week.

The high death toll stunned health authorities and local
officials have worked hard to try to improve their response to
heatwaves, supplying air conditioning to retirement homes and
broadcasting constant information on how to cope in the heat.

In Italy, temperatures pushed higher on Friday, reaching
nearly 39 degree Celsius in Florence, and were expected to
increase throughout the weekend. Many cities raised their alert
levels to avoid a repeat of 2003, when the heatwave killed
20,000 people.

Emergency workers in Rome said they were handing out water
to people standing in queues outside museums and art galleries
or waiting in the sun to catch their bus.

A worker collapsed and died of heat-related causes in the
island of Sardinia on Thursday, while health services received
thousands of calls from elderly people asking for help.

Southern and western Bosnia have been hit by a series of
fires as temperatures reached as high as 41 degrees, prompting
local fire fighters to ask the army for helicopter assistance.

(Reporting by European bureaux)

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