Wildfires in France and Spain as three die in Italian heatwave
Hundreds of firefighters battled to contain wildfires in southern France yesterday as a stifling heatwave brought record-breaking temperatures to parts of Europe, killing at least three people in Italy.
In the Gard region, where France's highest temperature on record was registered last Friday at 45.9C, scores of fires burned 1,500 acres of land and destroyed houses and vehicles.
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More than 700 firefighters and 10 aircraft were mobilised to tackle the fires in Gard, some of which caused sections of motorways to be closed.
French media said a man had been arrested for deliberately starting fires in one Gard village.
Paris was due to experience its hottest day of the heatwave so far with a predicted high of 37C. Authorities in the capital maintained a ban on driving older cars to curb heatwave-related pollution.
The World Meteorological Organisation said 2019 was on track to be among the world's hottest years, and 2015-2019 would then be the hottest five-year period on record.
It said the European heatwave was "absolutely consistent" with extremes linked to the impact of greenhouse gas emissions.
Britain saw its hottest day of the year yesterday, with temperatures reaching 35C, according to the Met Office.
Emergency services across the country shared warnings and advice to stay safe, cool and hydrated during the hot conditions. The RSPCA urged people to call 999 if they find pets left alone in a car.
England's most senior nurse called on the public to help children, the elderly and other vulnerable people at risk of being affected by the heat.
Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said: "Like lots of people I'm looking forward to having fun in the sun with family and friends this weekend, but nobody wants to spend a pleasant day stuck in a hospital or urgent treatment centre.
"So whether you're going to be out in the garden like me or heading off to Glastonbury, it's really important to take simple precautions like drinking plenty of water, using high-factor sunscreen and remembering to take allergy medication if you need it - as is making sure to check in on neighbours and loved ones who can suffer the most from heat and pollen."
For a fourth consecutive day, unusually high temperatures above 43C were forecast across Spain.
Forty of Spain's 50 regions were placed under weather alert, seven considered to be at extreme risk, the national meteorological agency said.
In the north-eastern city of Girona, the mercury reached a record high of 43.9C last Friday, the Catalan city's highest temperature on record.
Firefighters managed to contain 90pc of the wildfires that raged across 60 sq km in the north-eastern Tarragona province, the Catalan government said.
Two other wildfires in the central Toledo region were still burning this weekend, officials said.
The heat killed at least three people as temperatures soared in central and northern Italy, while hospitals in the financial capital Milan saw a 35pc rise in emergency visits due to heat-related conditions, local media reported.
Demand for power in the city surged as people cranked up air conditioning, causing sporadic black-outs in stores and restaurants. Temperatures are forecast to ease in the coming days but it will remain hot.