Europe battles heat wave

Thousands of schools are closed, outdoor events cancelled and volunteers visiting the elderly at home as Europe battles a record-setting heat wave. The heat wave is caused by warm air rising across Europe from north Africa. Hot temperatures are expected to last until Sunday when a cold front will arrive on the continent.

Several people have died around the continent in incidents that authorities are linking to the weather. Several countries have reported record temperatures this week, and France hit its all-time heat record on Friday - 45.9 C (114.6 F) in the small southern town of Gallargues-le-Montueux, according to French media. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Friday that temperature records for this time of year have been broken in Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland and Austria.

A major wildfire raged Friday in Spain, sparked by a pile of chicken dung that spontaneously combusted in the heat. An 80-year-old man collapsed and died in the street in Valladolid, in northwest Spain and a 17-year-old boy died in the southern city of Cordoba after diving into a swimming pool and losing consciousness. More than 600 firefighters and six water-dropping aircraft were battling the worst fire in two decades in the Catalonia region Friday, as Spain is forecast to endure the peak of its heat wave, with temperatures expected to exceed 40 C (104 F).

The French national weather service activated its highest-level heat danger alert for the first time, putting four regions around Marseille and Montpellier in the south of the country under special watch Friday. About 4,000 schools were closed because they couldn’t ensure safe conditions. Four people have drowned so far in France this week, and a 12-year-old girl drowned in a river near Manchester, England. France’s health minister and British police warned people to swim only in authorised areas.

Italy put 16 cities under alert for high temperatures, and civil security services distributed water to tourists visiting famed sites around Rome under the scorching sun.

In Berlin, a police unit turned water cannons usually used against rioters on city trees, to cool them down.

Speaking in Geneva, WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis said Earth is set to experience its five warmest years on record from 2015-2019. The WMO says that increasing greenhouse gas concentrations will fuel global heat and climate change.

“It’s hitting the poorest and most vulnerable but it will ultimately hit everybody,” Ms. Nullis said.

In Paris, near the presidential palace, about 100 students organised a street protest to urge authorities to take immediate action on climate change. The action ended without police violence.

(With inputs from agencies)

In Paris, near the presidential palace, activists from Youth for Climate organised a street protest to urge authorities to take immediate action on climate change. Photo: AP
An elephant refreshes itself in a pool in its enclosure at the Opel zoo in Kronberg near Frankfurt, Germany on Tuesday, June 25, 2019. Photo: AP
A child cools off in a public fountain in Vilnius, Lithuania on Saturday, June 15, 2019. Heat wave continues in Lithuania as temperature goes up as high as 32 degrees Celsius (89.6F). Photo: AP
People cool off in an urban beach at Madrid Rio park in Madrid on Wednesday, June 26, 2019. Hot air from Africa is bringing a heat wave to Europe, prompting health warnings about Sahara Desert dust and exceptionally high temperatures in Spain. Photo: AP
People walk around a lake at the melting Rhone Glacier in Furka, Switzerland. Photo: AP
A woman walks between fountains of the Trocadero gardens, in front of the Eiffel Tower, in Paris on Friday, June 28, 2019. Schools are spraying kids with water and nursing homes are equipping the elderly with hydration sensors as France and other nations battle a heat wave. Photo: AP
Burned trees remain after a fire in La Palma d'Ebre, Spain on Friday June 28, 2019. A major wildfire in northeastern Spain that began in a pile of chicken dung raged out of control for a third straight day Friday with more than 600 firefighters and six water-dropping aircraft battling the blaze in the Catalonia region. Spain is forecast to endure the peak of a recent heat wave, with temperatures expected to exceed 40 degrees Celsius (104 F). Photo: AP

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