Europe withers under the early heat wave


People flocked to parks and pools across Western Europe on Saturday for some respite from an early heatwave that saw mercury rise above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in France and Spain, and the highest was 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) in Germany.

Officials have warned of wildfires in the western Mediterranean region as high temperatures and prolonged dry periods create combustible conditions.

The European Commission’s Copernicus Emergency Management Service said the fire risk was “extreme” and “very extreme” in much of Spain, the Rhone valley in France, Sardinia, Sicily and some regions of mainland Italy.

The 27-nation bloc has sent 12 firefighting planes and one helicopter on standby to assist countries battling major fires this summer.

Meteorologists in France describe the situation as “really exceptional” and predict that a peak of 43 degrees Celsius (109.4 F) is possible on Saturday before thunderstorms bring cooler weather from the Atlantic Ocean.

Experts say the early heatwave is a sign of what is to come as climate change makes extreme temperatures normally only available in July and August more likely than in June.

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