- Authorities in France are attributing several deaths to the heat.
- The country issued its first-ever “red” weather alert.
- Record highs have been set in France, Germany, Czech Republic, Luxembourg and Poland.
- A wildfire burned more than 20 square miles of land in northeastern Spain.
Several deaths are being blamed on the scorching, record-breaking heat wave blanketing much of Europe.
The news agency Europa Press reported that at least two people have died in Spain from the heat, according to the Associated Press. Authorities in France are also linking at least four deaths to the heat, the AP reported.
Also in France, a 6-year-old child suffered life-threatening injuries after being hit by high-pressure water shooting from a fire hydrant that was illegally opened.
France issued its first-ever “red” weather alert since a new warning system was put into place after scores of deaths in a similar heat wave in 2003.
The red alert is the highest warning and was issued on Thursday for the Marseille and Montpellier areas in southeastern France, the Associated Press reported. Temperatures in those areas are forecast to reach as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit today.
Some 4,000 schools across the country closed.
An estimated 15,000 heat-related deaths were reported in France following the 2003 summer heat wave. The deaths prompted the nation’s weather service to institute a four-level warning system for high temperatures.
France has already busted record high temperatures set in the summer of 2003. The mercury hit 114 degrees in Gallargues-le-Montueux today – the highest temperature ever recorded in France. At least 11 other locations in France also tied or broke the previous all-time record high temperature.
“A heat wave of this amplitude so early in the year, in June, is exceptional,” Meteo France meteorologist France Christelle Robert told the AP. “We should expect more intense and frequent heat waves with climate change, because it will accentuate the extremes.”
Seven cities in Italy, including Florence, Rome and Turin, were also at their nation’s highest heat warning level.
The warnings came as much of Europe – where air conditioning is rare in homes and even in many public buildings – continues to swelter under the current record-breaking heat wave.
In Spain, firefighters struggled to contain a wildfire on Thursday fueled by the hot and dry conditions.
The fire, in the northeast region of Catalonia, has burned about 21 square miles of land, the Associated Press reported.
More than 120 firefighters were working to contain the blaze and 53 residents had been evacuated.
Miquel Buch, the regional interior minister, said the fire was the worst to hit Catalonia in 20 years.
Officials think the fire started in a manure storage area, and spread due to winds and the extreme heat.
Much of western and central Europe are suffering in scorching weather pushed in by a plume of hot air from Africa.
A record high of 101.5 degrees, was set Wednesday in Coschen, Germany, on the border with Poland, according to the German weather service. It was the hottest June temperature ever recorded in Germany. Record highs for June were also set in the Czech Republic and Poland, where temperatures also topped 100 degrees.
Besides France and Italy, heat warnings were issued in several countries as people flocked to to beaches, lakes, rivers, pools and public fountains to cool off.
In parts of France, schools were closed and expected to remain that way the rest of the week, and older cars were barred from driving in the country’s largest cities due to concerns over air quality, the Guardian reported.
Officials in Germany ordered speed limits on parts of the Autobahn lowered to prevent the road from buckling.
The transport ministry in Germany’s Saxony-Anhalt state, in the north of the country, set speed limits at 62 mph and 75 mph earlier this week on several stretches of the roadway.
The famed Autobahn, Germany’s interstate highway system, is known for its high-speed driving. Maximum speeds along most parts of the Autobahn are usually 75 or 80 mph, while some sections have no speed limit at all.
The buckling phenomenon is blamed on aging infrastructure. The older roads were constructed with concrete that can’t withstand high temperatures.
In 2013, a motorcyclist died and four other people were injured after driving over a heat-caused bulge on the Autobahn in Bavaria.
The European heat wave is being caused by a large dome of high pressure aloft over the continent that is tapping into a hot air mass from northern Africa, weather.com meteorologist Christopher Dolce said.