Finns sleep in chilled supermarket aisles as Europe bakes in heatwave
Europe's heatwave gripped Spain and Portugal yesterday, as governments checked for forest fires, a Budapest game reserve fed iced snacks to animals, and a supermarket in Finland invited customers to sleep in its aisles to stay cool.
Hot air from North Africa has caused the most severe heatwave since 2003 in Iberia.
Portugal's Civil Protection agency reported 426 firefighters were putting out or checking fire alerts in the north and centre.
Spanish and Portuguese temperatures will remain above 40C at least until tomorrow, and could rise above Europe's record high of 48C, set in Athens in 1977. The record in both Spain and Portugal is just over 47C.
In Portugal, local media said temperatures could beat Death Valley in California, one of the world's hottest places.
Parts of Portugal's parched southern Alentejo region are forecast to hit 47C over the coming days. The country is on alert to prevent a repeat of its worst fires in history last year when 114 people died.
Francois Jobard, a forecaster for Meteo France, said the hot air mass from North Africa could cause temperatures in Portugal and Spain of 45C and perhaps hotter over the weekend.
Last month, wildfires killed at least 91 people in Greece.
Two men died of heat-stroke in the Spanish southeastern region of Murcia, Cadena Ser radio station reported on Wednesday.
A branch of the K-Supermarket chain in Helsinki's Pohjois-Haaga district has invited 100 customers to sleep in its air-conditioned store tonight. Finland's August average is 19C but temperatures approached 30C this week and few homes have air-conditioning.
A store manager told the state broadcaster that beer sales would end at 9pm, as usual, though snacks would be available.
Tourists took shelter under umbrellas outside the Louvre Museum in Paris and ignored 'No Bathing' signs to paddle in the fountains.
In Switzerland, mountain railways reported booming business as city dwellers fled to the Alps and the army transported drinking water to Alpine meadows for animals.
Fishery authorities in the canton of Zurich were combing creeks to rescue fish from suffocation as streams dry up or oxygen levels plunge.
The Swiss army let soldiers wear shorts and T-shirts instead of standard uniforms.
The small Budakeszi game reserve outside the Hungarian capital Budapest said it was helping its animals cope with the heat with iced fruit and a diet with less meat and more nutrients.