Europe bracing for potentially deadly heatwave with sweltering 40C highs

Continental Europe is bracing for a potentially deadly and record-breaking summer heatwave with extreme temperatures expected to top 40C this week.

The first full week of summer will be blistering in countries including Spain, France and Germany while the UK bakes in its hottest weather of the year.

Very hot air from Africa is being pulled north over Europe, where much of the mainland will see at least one day of "intense heat" and high humidity will make it feel more like 50C.

The hottest temperatures are expected in Paris, Madrid, Prague, Munich and Zurich, with temperatures expected to hit 41C in Spain, according to forecasters.

Meanwhile temperatures could rise towards the mid 30s in the UK as hot weather threatens to spawn violent thunderstorms.

Britons heading abroad to central and western Europe this week or next weekend will endure even hotter temperatures.

Temperatures will peak at 41C in Madrid on Thursday and Friday, and close to 40C in places such as Paris and Majorca.

Forecasters have issued warnings and some cities have implemented emergency plans to help residents cope with the heat, especially those who don't have air conditioning in their homes.

In France, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo activated a heatwave action plan, and the country's health minister, Agnes Buzyn, has told councils, hospitals and care homes to be prepared.

Last summer's heatwave killed 1,500 more people than usual in July and August.

A severe heatwave in July and August 2003 – described as the worst since 1540 by meteorologists – resulted in almost 15,000 heat-related deaths in France.

That summer, Paris hit a record high of 40.4C, and temperatures are expected to near that mark this week, France 24 reported.

Meteorologist Francois Gourandof Meteo-France, told reporters: "We are expecting a heatwave that will affect more than half of France, of maximum intensity: the hottest day reached will be comparable to 2003, not very far away in any case."

He said June temperature records are likely to be broken, adding: "This heatwave promises to be unprecedented for a month of June."

Paris has more than 900 "cool places" open to the public – including swimming pools and museums – and more than 200 of them will be open at night for those looking to escape the heat.

Nights will be very warm, and it will be at least a week before there is relief from the heat.

While most of France endures extreme heat, temperatures will be "below normal" in Normandy and Brittany, where thunderstorms are a risk.

Temperatures this week will be close to 40C in Milan, Rome and parts of Germany, including Frankfurt and Berlin, and in the mid 30s in Prague, Vienna, Brussels and Zurich.

German forecaster Dominik Jung told Bild: “Three days in a row with up to 40 degrees. And in June. That hasn’t happened before.

"The Saharan nozzle blows its hot air directly to us. And the sun is at its highest so temperatures can build for longer.”

Public health officials have told people to take precautions to stay cool and advised against drinking alcohol during the heatwave, which poses a particular threat to children and the elderly.

The German tabloid Bild suggested people have a siesta in the afternoons and put their pyjamas in the freezer to help them stay cool at night.

The unusually warm weather is due to a storm stalling over the Atlantic Ocean and high pressure over central and eastern Europe, AccuWeather said.

It added: "Locations from Madrid to Paris, Belgium, Frankfurt and Berlin can expect a multi-day heat wave, with daily temperatures near or above 32C (90F).

"The highest temperatures of the year so far are expected during this heat wave in cities such as Madrid, Milan, Prague, Munich and Zurich."

The heatwave began in Spain on Sunday, with temperatures hitting 33C in Madrid, and it will spread into France on Monday.

AccuWeather said: "By Tuesday, intense heat will be felt from Madrid to Berlin and Milan."

In the UK, temperatures are forecast to rise to 33C in the south-east of England by Friday.

Thunderstorms will batter parts of the country this week.

The conditions have pulled very hot air from Africa over Europe, said AccuWeather, which has warned of a "potentially dangerous" heatwave.

Scientists say climate change has made extreme heatwaves in Europe up to five times more likely to occur.

In India, at least 36 people have died in a heatwave that has sent temperatures soaring to 50C this month.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said 2018 was the world's fourth hottest year on record after 2016, 2015 and 2017.

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