The French capital on Thursday saw its hottest ever temperature – over 42 degrees Celsius – breaking a seven-decade-old record as a European heatwave neared its peak, the state weather service said. A temperature of 42.4C was recorded in the Montsouris area of the city at 3.20pm local time, Meteo-France said. This reading smashed the previous high of 40.4C set in July 1947. Authorities said the temperature was still rising, as a result of hot, dry air that is coming from northern Africa after it became trapped between cold stormy systems. “The mercury is set to climb even higher” in the Paris area, Meteo-France said on its website. Temperatures could even reach 43 degrees in the shade, “which is the average maximum temperature in Baghdad, Iraq in July”, it added. Across Paris, authorities and charity workers handed out water and sunscreen to homeless people and opened day centres for them to rest and shower. Vicious heatwave sweeps across Europe, killing several “They are in the street all day, under the sun. No air conditioning, no way to protect oneself from the heat, so for some it’s really quite complicated,” said Ruggero Gatti, an IT worker joining other Red Cross volunteers handing out water bottles, soup and yogurt to the homeless in the Paris suburb of Boulogne. One by one, heat records are being broken across Europe, leading to casualties. The Netherlands and Belgium reported new record heats and Britain is expected to do so later. The Netherlands’ meteorological institute said 40.4 C was recorded on Thursday in the municipality of Gilze Rijen, near the border with Belgium. A government health institute warned of high levels of smog due to ozone in the air in parts of the country. July on course to be hottest month ever, climate scientists say The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment issued a “smog alarm” Thursday for regions including the densely populated cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. The institute said air quality in the some regions will be “extremely bad” because light winds mean that pollution is not being blown away and sunlight transforms it into ozone. The smog can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, and leave people coughing and short of breath. In Belgium, the new all-time high rose to 40.6C. “This is the highest recorded temperature for Belgium in history since the beginning of the measurements in 1833,” said Alex Dewalque from the Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium. Britain also expects to breach the 39C mark for the first time after London recording its hottest day on record for July, with the mercury climbing to 36.9C at Heathrow Airport. Indian car owner uses cow dung to protect vehicle from sweltering heat The previous July record was 36.7C in 2015, while the all-time record is 38.5C recorded back in August, 2003. Britain’s Met Office said records go back to 1865. In Austria, a two-year-old died of dehydration in the country’s Styria region after he climbed into an overheated parked car without his family noticing and fell asleep in it. The Austrian news agency APA reported on Thursday that the boy, who climbed into a car parked at the family’s farm on Monday, died at a children’s hospital on Wednesday. Across Germany, Switzerland and Austria, some communities painted rail tracks in white hoping the light colour would bring down the temperature by a few degrees. Rail disruption across Europe as heatwave bites In Heiligendamm on the Baltic Sea in eastern Germany, train services were cancelled temporarily during last month’s heat wave after the tracks were deformed by the heat. German railways Deutsche Bahn said passengers who had booked tickets for Thursday or Friday and wanted to delay their trips because of the heat could do so until August 4 without extra charge.