Heatwave warning in UK as France evacuates towns
By Vatican News staff reporter
The UK Met Office issued a red extreme heat warning on Monday in much of England.
Britain's government also activated a "national emergency" alert as temperatures were forecast to surpass the 38.7C recorded in the Cambridge University Botanic Garden in 2019.
In London, the metro network imposed temporary speed restrictions for Monday and Tuesday, and urged commuters to only travel if essential.
The national rail network also called on passengers to stay at home.
The government urged schools to stay open but many were due to close earlier than usual.
Some schools were shut and were holding online lessons.
The searing heat in Britain mirrors that of the rest of Europe which is baking in a heatwave that has pushed temperatures into the mid-40s Celsius in some regions, with wildfires raging across countryside in Portugal, and Spain.
In France, water-bombing planes doused tinder-dry land, and hundreds more firefighters have been brought in to combat spreading wildfires.
The Interior Ministry said on Sunday night that more than 200 reinforcements were also being added to the 1,500-strong force of firefighters battling night and day to contain the blazes through the Gironde region's pine forests.
With winds changing direction, authorities in southwestern France announced plans to evacuate more towns and move out 3,500 people at risk of finding themselves in the path of the raging flames.
Meanwhile, in Spain, firefighters tried to stamp out over 30 fires consuming forests spread across the country. Spain’s National Defense Department said that “the majority” of its fire-fighting aircraft have been deployed to reach the blazes, many of which are in rugged, hilly terrain that is difficult for ground crews to access.
Heat related deaths
According to Spain’s Carlos III Institute, which records temperature-related fatalities daily, 360 deaths were attributed to high temperatures from July 10 to 15.
Elsewhere in Europe, around 1,000 firefighters tried to control 13 forest and rural fires in the centre and north of Portugal, the largest being near the northern city of Chaves.
Portugal's Health Ministry said at the weekend that in the last seven days 659 people died due to the heatwave, most of them elderly.
The climate connection
As millions across Europe feel the effects of this heat, experts are linking soaring temperatures to climate change.
A study published in June in the journal 'Environmental Research: Climate' concluded it was highly probable that climate change was making heatwaves worse.