Europe burns as heatwave breaks temperature records

Firefighters and a fleet of waterbombing aircraft have battled against the French blazes for nearly a week

A fierce heatwave in western Europe on Monday left much of the continent wilting under a scorching sun, smashing temperature records and feeding ferocious forest wildfires.

In Britain, the 38.1 Celsius (100.9 Fahrenheit) in Suffolk, eastern England, made it the hottest day of the year and the third-hottest day on record.

Across the Channel in France, a host of towns and cities recorded their highest-ever temperatures on Monday, the national weather office said.

Saint-Brieuc, on the Channel coast, hit 39.5C beating a previous record of 38.1C, and the western city of Nantes recorded 42C, beating a decades-old high of 40.3C, set in 1949.

For nearly a week now, armies of firefighters and a fleet of waterbombing aircraft have battled blazes that have mobilised much of France’s firefighting capacity.

Ireland saw temperatures of 33C in Dublin — the highest since 1887 — while in the Netherlands, temperatures reached 35.4C in the southern city of Westdorpe. While that was not a record, higher temperatures are expected there on Tuesday.

The European heatwave is the second to engulf parts of the southwest of the continent in recent weeks.

Blazes in France, Greece, Portugal and Spain have destroyed thousands of hectares of land.

The blaze was literally “blowing things up”, such was its ferocity, said Marc Vermeulen, head of the local fire service. “Pine trunks of 40 years are bursting.”

Hurriedly packing her car, Patricia Monteil said she would go to her daughter’s who lived in another part of the district. “But if that goes up in flames too, I don’t know what to do.”

On Monday evening, prosecutors in the southwest city of Bordeaux said a man suspected of having started one of the fires in the region had been taken into custody.

Later on Monday it was reported that an office worker in his fifties had died from heatstroke in Madrid.

– ‘Enjoy the sunshine’ –

“We found the car and these two people, aged around 70 years, completely burnt,” the mayor of Murca, Mario Artur Lopez, told SIC Noticias television. The victims were from the nearby village of Penabeice, he added.

The fires have already killed two other people, injured around 60 and destroyed between 12,000 and 15,000 hectares of land there.

Johnson was criticised for having failed to attend an emergency meeting on the crisis on Sunday, instead hosting a farewell party at his state-funded country retreat.

The Sun tabloid headlined its coverage of the heat “British Bake Off”, observing that the “scorcher” was making the UK hotter than Ibiza where temperatures were a comparatively low 30C.

Trains were cancelled and schools closed in affected areas.

“I come from Sudan,” he said. “Forty, forty-five degrees is just the norm. This is as good as it can be.”

Originally published as Europe burns as heatwave breaks temperature records

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