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Extreme weather

As asphalt melts and dogs don shoes, Europe wilts in extreme heat

Spain and Portugal are particularly suffering from a heatwave that is hitting temperatures of 115 degrees Fahrenheit

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 August, 2018, 3:40am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 August, 2018, 3:40am

Europe sweltered Saturday in intense heat with temperatures hitting near-record highs of 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius) in Portugal, while elsewhere high temperatures melted the asphalt or saw a highway shut down.

In southern Spain, the heat continued to pound the tourist city of Cordoba reaching 111 degrees Fahrenheit (44 Celsius).

Over in the northeast, a fire at the border with France shut a highway between both countries as firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze with the help of six water-dropping planes and helicopters.

The soaring mercury has already claimed the lives of three people this week.

A middle-aged man in Barcelona, whom media said appeared to be homeless, was found collapsed on a street Friday and taken to hospital where he later died of heatstroke, Catalonia’s civil protection agency said in a statement.

Two other men – a roadworker in his 40s and a 78-year-old pensioner tending to his vegetable garden – also died from heatstroke this week.

The heatwave was expected to reach its peak on Saturday, said Paula Leitao of the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere.

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In Monchique in the south, a forest fire raged on two fronts, aided by “a temperature of 46 degrees but a real feel of 50 degrees” and very little humidity in the air, Victor Vaz Pinto, head of rescue operations in the district, told local media.

So far, close to 740 firefighters helped by 10 water-dropping planes and helicopters were working to put it out, according to Vaz Pinto and the civil protection agency.

In Lisbon, authorities have closed playgrounds and called on people to avoid picnics and outdoor activities.

Refuges for homeless people have also opened earlier in the day to allow them to take shelter from the crushing heat.

In Vienna, police dogs due to patrol a beach volleyball tournament were fitted with special shoes.

Police said that even if temperatures were not excruciatingly hot, reaching just 93 degrees Fahrenheit (34 C) on Saturday, the dogs would have to spend hours walking on surfaces exposed to the sun that could easily go over 122 degrees (50 C), and would still need the shoes.

In the Netherlands, authorities closed certain sections of motorways where the heat had melted the asphalt.

The central city of Zwolle, meanwhile, started cutting the branches of some 100 poplar trees.

Dutch public television NOS explained that branches could break because of the heat and create danger for drivers or passers-by.

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A total of four nuclear reactors in France have been closed due to the heatwave.

French power company EDF said the measures were taken to avoid temperature hikes in rivers. The nuclear plants draw water from rivers to cool down the reactors and then return it to the river.

Saturday was also the summer’s busiest day on the roads, as July holidaymakers returned home and those who holiday in August departed.

By late morning, some 440 miles (705 kilometres) of traffic jams had been reported, according to France’s traffic authorities, as the sun beat down on the asphalt.

Italy too faced the summer’s busiest day on the roads for the same reason as France.

Holidaymakers were expected to face adverse weather wherever they went.

In the North, there was no let-up in the scorching heat while violent hailstorms were expected in the afternoon in the south.

This week, the Legambiente association for the defence of the environment published a report on the negative effects of heatwaves.

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It revealed that in Lazio, the region where Rome is located, heatwaves had caused around 7,700 deaths since 2000.

Following its hottest July in 250 years, rainshowers gave Sweden some respite on Saturday across most of the country.

The mercury fell to more typical summer temperatures in the low 70s, the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute said.