Large parts of southern Europe are groaning under a heat wave that is bringing temperatures well over 40 degrees.
The highest warning level applies in many cities in Italy today, and forest fires are also raging in Spain and Greece. The WHO warns of possible dangers.
Over 41 degrees in Rome, 43 degrees in Mallorca, 45 degrees in Catalonia: Another major heat wave has the Mediterranean Sea firmly in its grip. Meanwhile, Greece is not only fighting against the heat, but also against many forest fires. And there the next particularly hot days with temperatures of over 40 degrees are just around the corner. An overview.
Heat alert in Italy, records in France
In Italy, the highest alert level for heat applies in 23 larger cities today. According to the Air Force weather service, 40 degrees are expected in the capital Rome, and 37 to 39 degrees in Florence and Bologna. 41.8 degrees were measured in Rome on Tuesday.
The French national weather service reported a record high of 29.5 degrees Celsius for the ski resort of Alpe d’Huez at an altitude of 1860 meters, as reported yesterday. In Verdun, at the foot of the Pyrenees, a temperature of 40.6 degrees Celsius was measured for the first time. The second highest heat warning level applies in seven departments, and three more departments are to be added today.
Fires out of control in Greece
Fires have been raging around the Greek capital Athens since Monday, which have gotten out of control due to the extreme drought and strong winds. This was preceded by a three-day heat wave with temperatures above 40 degrees. And a new heat wave is upon us. “We are fighting the flames on all fronts. The next few days will be very difficult,” said a spokesman for the fire department.
Despite the massive use of firefighting aircraft and helicopters, the fire brigade was unable to contain the flames until late Tuesday evening. Dozens of towns had to be evacuated. Disturbed people and pets ran through the streets of the village of Nea Zoi, around 20 kilometers east of Athens, state television showed.
The flames also raged near the holiday town of Loutraki, around 80 kilometers east of Athens. Numerous houses burned down to the ground, as the television showed. Meteorologists warned that a new heat wave with temperatures of up to 44 degrees will reach south-eastern Europe in the next few days. Strong winds should then set in again, which could fan new fires, the weather office in Athens said.
Spain’s heatwave continues
Spain experienced the peak of the current heat wave on Tuesday. Mallorca was hit the hardest. In the north and east of the island and also in parts of Catalonia and Aragon in the Spanish north-east, the highest red alert from the Aemet weather service applied.
44 degrees were measured in Sa Pobla, about 40 kilometers northeast of the island’s capital, Palma. The provisional highest daily value was recorded on the mainland, in Catalonian Figueres, with 45.3 degrees. At Ballermann there was at least 38 degrees – in the shade of course. The streets there were “virtually empty” in the afternoon, as the “Mallorca Zeitung” reported. There was more going on at the beach.
The heat wave is expected to end on Thursday. According to Aemet, more and more intense heat waves are being registered in Spain. The first 17 days of July were the third warmest in Spain after 2015 and 2022.
The Ministry of the Interior warned of a “very high to extreme” risk of forest fires throughout the country, but especially on the Canary Island of La Palma, because of the drought associated with the heat. The fire brigade has been fighting a large forest fire there since Saturday. According to the authorities of La Palma already burned thousands of hectares of land, around 4000 people had to temporarily leave their homes. Because of the poor air quality, the authorities called on residents in several places to reduce their outdoor activities and wear protective masks.
WHO Europe warns of heat
In view of the heat wave, the European office of the World Health Organization (WHO) warns not to be unprepared for the high temperatures. Without the appropriate preparation, heat can be deadly, said WHO Europe Director Hans Kluge. On the one hand you have to protect yourself and your fellow human beings acutely in this heat wave, but on the other hand you have to take the right precautions for the future.
“Beyond adjusting to our new reality this summer, we need to look to the years and decades to come,” said the regional director. There is an urgent need for regional and global action to effectively tackle the climate crisis, which poses an existential threat to humanity. It is also important to involve young people.
Directly related to this summer, Kluge advised a number of measures to stay as cool as possible and thus avoid the worst health consequences of the heat. One should stay away from the heat by avoiding going outside and engaging in strenuous activities during the hottest part of the day. One should keep one’s home cool, for example by leaving blinds down during the day and using the night air to cool it down. It is also important to keep the body cool and hydrated – this can be achieved with light, loose clothing, cold showers and regular drinking of water.