Europe in the grip of blistering heatwave

Significant heatwave is once again sweeping across Europe, with several countries suffering the threats of disasters and health risks caused by extreme high temperatures. Some countries have issued heat alerts or declared a state of emergency.

HEATWAVE BUILDING UP

World Meteorological Organization spokeswoman Clare Nullis said on Tuesday that a new heatwave was building up in Western Europe, currently affecting mainly Spain and Portugal, which was forecast to intensify and spread.

Spain was currently seeing temperatures well into 40 degrees Celsius, while the United Kingdom (UK) had issued an amber warning for extreme heat, according to Nullis.

There was a high probability the heat wave would expand to the north and east Europe and reach western-central Europe and the northern Balkans by the end of next week, she said, adding that the heat would possibly spread to other parts of Europe in the following weeks.

Spain is in its second heatwave of the summer, with temperatures expected to reach 45 degrees Celsius in some parts of the country and with the high temperatures expected to last until at least Friday, the state meteorological agency AEMET warned Monday.

The thermometer reached 41 degrees Celsius in some cities of Spain on Monday, and the capital city of Madrid is suffering temperatures of 39 degrees Celsius.

The Met Office of the UK, the country’s national weather service, on Tuesday extended the rare Amber weather warning for extreme heat for parts of England and Wales. The alert for “exceptionally high temperatures,” which had initially been issued for Sunday, has now been extended to next Monday, it said in a statement.

“There’s a possibility of a level four heatwave,” a spokesperson for the UK Health Security Agency told British daily The Telegraph. “If it gets above 40 degrees Celsius, then it is likely to be a level four heatwave for the first time.”

Balkan country Bosnia and Herzegovina is suffering a new heatwave just two weeks after this year’s record 41 degrees Celsius has been reported in Mostar, some 120 kilometers south of the capital Sarajevo. Over the next two weeks, temperatures will range between 31 and 40 degrees Celsius with slim chances of rainfall, said the Federal Hydro-Meteorological Institute.

The weather forecast of the Slovenian Environment Agency of the central European country showed on Tuesday that the temperature will rise above 30 degrees Celsius from Wednesday and reach up to 33 degrees by Friday.

Another central European country Czech Republic could reach 36 degrees Celsius at the end of the weekend, according to a forecast from the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (CHMU) on Monday.

DISASTER THREATS, HEALTH RISKS

Disaster alerts and health risks have been warned in heatwave-hit countries. For instance, the Italian government on July 4 declared a state of emergency related to the prolonged heatwave and drought conditions.

Droughts, as seen in Italy and the northern Balkan Peninsula, were also to be expected to carry on and expand in western and western-central Europe within the next two weeks, said Nullis.

She noted that droughts were accompanied by the risk of wildfire and that maps were showing elevated risks in Spain and southern France. As the drought conditions continued, the risk of fires was to increase.

In Spain, the heatwave has raised the risk of forest fires to “extreme” and “very high” in nearly all parts of the country. Data published by the Ministry of Ecological Transition shows that 81,866 hectares of woodland and scrub in Spain have been burned by wildfires already in 2022, beating the total amount of damage suffered in 2021.

Just on Monday, at least 400 people have been evacuated from their homes after a wildfire started in a rural area known as Las Hurdes in southwestern Spain.

On the health aspect of the heatwave, Nullis mentioned the need to stay cool, stay hydrated, and avoid exercising in the heat of the day, among other things. At night time when the temperature didn’t fall under 20 degrees Celsius, vulnerable groups, such as elderly people, were more at risk.

The Met Office of the UK on Monday warned of likely adverse health effects for the public.

A yellow weather warning has been issued in Cyrus for Wednesday’s “extremely high” temperatures, with temperatures set to hit 40 degrees Celsius.

“It’s likely that there may be danger to the health of those who are vulnerable such as the elderly and children,” the meteorological office of the country said on Tuesday. ■