European heatwave claims first victims as three die in south of France


A ‘vicious’ Saharan Bubble heatwave roasting Europe has claimed its first victims after three people died in France from suspected cold shock after diving into the sea from a hot beach. 

A 70-year-old man suffered a cardiac arrest on Monday at Marseillan Plage, near Montpellier – the day the heatwave began – before a 62-year-old woman and a 75-year-old man died on Tuesday in the same region, it was revealed today

Temperatures of 102F (39C) are expected in central France today, rising to 113F (45C) by Friday, which would break the all-time record set in 2003 at 111F (44.1C). Nearly all of the country is on orange alert – the second-highest warning level after red.

Dozens of schools have already shut across the country due to insufficient air conditioning while in Paris more than a million of the most polluting vehicles have been banned from the capital for the day, with the city especially prone to smog in heatwaves.

Hot air blown in from North Africa by an unusually strong jet stream is roasting Europe in an early-June heatwave that has seen threat-to-life warnings issued across France, Germany and northern Spain. 

Forecasters have compared the conditions to the 2003 heatwave which occurred around the same time of year and killed an estimated 70,000 people across the continent. Early season heatwaves are considered more dangerous because people’s bodies have not had time to adjust to summer conditions. 

June records are set to be broken this week in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland.  

In Britain, temperatures are expected to reach 80F (27C) amid muggy conditions today before climbing further at the weekend when highs of 93.2F (34C) are possible. 

A plume of Saharan air is bringing scorching June temperatures across Europe, which are set to climb even further on Wednesday before peaking in some parts on Thursday and Friday

A plume of Saharan air is bringing scorching June temperatures across Europe, which are set to climb even further on Wednesday before peaking in some parts on Thursday and Friday

Feeling the heat: The Pope wipes his face with a tissue during his weekly general audience on St Peter's Square at the Vatican this morning amid rocketing temperatures

Feeling the heat: The Pope wipes his face with a tissue during his weekly general audience on St Peter’s Square at the Vatican this morning amid rocketing temperatures

Paris woke up to a thick cloud of smog on Wednesday as strong jet stream winds drew clouds of dust up from the Sahara

Paris woke up to a thick cloud of smog on Wednesday as strong jet stream winds drew clouds of dust up from the Sahara

A nun uses a fan to shelter from the sun as she waits for the start of Pope Francis' general audience in St. Peter's Square

A nun uses a fan to shelter from the sun as she waits for the start of Pope Francis’ general audience in St. Peter’s Square

Temperatures were climbing across Germany this morning with many taking to outdoor pools to cool off (pictured, a public pool in Berlin today)

Temperatures were climbing across Germany this morning with many taking to outdoor pools to cool off (pictured, a public pool in Berlin today)

Cooling off: Two women resorted to standing next to sprinklers in front of the Chancellery during scorching conditions in Berlin, Germany, this morning

Cooling off: Two women resorted to standing next to sprinklers in front of the Chancellery during scorching conditions in Berlin, Germany, this morning

This was the scene in Rome on Tuesday when people were seen cooling themselves off in fountains amid climbing temperatures

This was the scene in Rome on Tuesday when people were seen cooling themselves off in fountains amid climbing temperatures

Temperatures in Britain are set to top 77F (25C) Wednesday, with some forecasts predicting highs of 80F (27C)

Temperatures in Britain are set to top 77F (25C) Wednesday, with some forecasts predicting highs of 80F (27C)

The majority of France was issued with an orange heat warning - meaning danger to life even among healthy people - for the second day running on Wednesday

The majority of Germany was also issued with a heat warning (in purple) advising people to take care in the sun

The majority of France (left) was issued with an orange heat warning – meaning danger to life even among healthy people – for the second day running on Wednesday. The majority of Germany (right) was also issued with a heat warning (in purple) advising people to take care in the sun

Basque country in Spain was also placed under an orange heat warning, meaning danger to life, with other areas under a less-severe yellow warning

Basque country in Spain was also placed under an orange heat warning, meaning danger to life, with other areas under a less-severe yellow warning

In Trier, Germany, it reached 99F (37C) on Tuesday, with slightly cooler temperatures of 95F (35C) expected in Berlin today. Overnight temperatures peaked at 79F (26C), bringing no respite from the heat. 

Further north, in the state of Hesse, 38 swimmers, many of them children, who flocked to a swimming pool amid soaring temperatures suffered injuries due to an increased chlorine concentration in the water. 

Stefan Rahmstorf, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, tweeted: ‘At our Potsdam station, operating since 1983, we’re set to break the past June record by about 2C.’ 

In bizarre scenes today, police in Brandenburg posted on Twitter two pictures of a moped-riding man clad in only his helmet and sandals. 

And in the south of the country, some female sunbathers who went topless at Munich’s Isar river touched off a row as five fully-clad security men walked over to tell them to put their bikini tops back on, Sueddeutsche daily reported.

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What is cold shock?

Cold shock, otherwise known as hydrocution, occurs when the human body is subjected to a sudden decrease in temperature.

It typically occurs when someone falls through ice into very cold water, but can be triggered when a body goes from a very hot place – like a beach – to cold water such as the sea.

Hydrocution causes blood vessels to quickly constrict, placing strain on the heart.

While this is not typically fatal, it can cause lethal cardiac arrests in people with heart conditions.

Medics advise entering water slowly during heatwaves to avoid it. 

Several other sunbathers nearby stood up for the women at the weekend, with one telling the newspaper: ‘We took off our bikinis out of solidarity.’ 

The south of France, where the three people died, has been among the regions worst affected by the European heatwave, with temperatures topping 92F (33C) on Tuesday. That will climb again to 99F (37C) today.

The highest reliable June temperature previously recorded in France was 106.7F (41.5C) on June 21, 2003.

The country’s highest ever temperature, recorded in southern France on August 12 in the same year was 111.38F (44.1C). 

Guillaume Woznica, a French forecaster, said Meteo France was predicting temperatures as high as 113F (45C) on Friday. He added: ‘The latest forecasts leave little room for doubt: we are heading for a new national record.’ 

In Paris, vehicles carrying ‘Crit’Air 3’ stickers will be barred from roads. More than a million cars are registered in that category under the sticker scheme, which assigning vehicles with ratings from one to five based on how polluting they are. Level five vehicles have already been banned. 

Italy’s health ministry, meanwhile, has issued a maximum red alert for heat for six cities on Thursday and for 16 on Friday, Ansa reports. 

Forecasters predict temperatures rising even above the record 2003 heat wave with more than 104F (40C) conditions expected in the worst hit areas. Officials warned against exposure to the sun between 11am and 6pm.  

Doctors in Rome have warned of possible health hazards caused by overflowing rubbish bins in city streets as the Italian capital struggles with a renewed waste emergency aggravated by the summer heat.

Waste disposal is a decades-long problem for the Eternal City. Rome was left with no major site to treat the 1.7 million metric tons it produces every year when the Malagrotta landfill was closed in 2013. 

Female sunbathers who went topless at Munich's Isar river touched off a row as five fully-clad security men walked over to tell them to put their bikini tops back on, Sueddeutsche daily reported. Pictured: people relax in the sun on the banks of the river on Tuesday

Female sunbathers who went topless at Munich’s Isar river touched off a row as five fully-clad security men walked over to tell them to put their bikini tops back on, Sueddeutsche daily reported. Pictured: people relax in the sun on the banks of the river on Tuesday

Hot wheels: Police in the German town of Brandenburg pulled over a naked motorbike rider amid stifling conditions

Hot wheels: Police in the German town of Brandenburg pulled over a naked motorbike rider amid stifling conditions

Hot wheels: In bizarre scenes today, police in Brandenburg posted on Twitter two pictures of a moped-riding man clad in only his helmet and sandals

A stand-up paddler and a sailing boat make their way over the Ammersee lake as sun rises in Diessen, southern Germany, this morning. The country is facing baking conditions over the coming days

A stand-up paddler and a sailing boat make their way over the Ammersee lake as sun rises in Diessen, southern Germany, this morning. The country is facing baking conditions over the coming days

People queue up at the entrance of a public bath in Berlin, Germany this morning. Weather warnings are in place across large parts of Europe

People queue up at the entrance of a public bath in Berlin, Germany this morning. Weather warnings are in place across large parts of Europe

Berlin residents could be seen cooling off in fountains and sprinklers this morning as temperatures crept up in the German capital

Berlin residents could be seen cooling off in fountains and sprinklers this morning as temperatures crept up in the German capital

French forecaster Ruben Hallali joked that a heat map of Spain this week looked like Edward Munch's The Scream in a tweet which has been widely-shared this week. It is not clear when the forecast covers

French forecaster Ruben Hallali joked that a heat map of Spain this week looked like Edward Munch’s The Scream in a tweet which has been widely-shared this week. It is not clear when the forecast covers

The Saharan plume is also pulling up large amounts of dust which are due to make air pollution worse across Europe (pictured, the pollution forecast for Wednesday)

Concentrations of PM2.5 particles - considered the most dangerous because they are very small and so are drawn deep into the lungs and linger for a long time - are forecast to be high this week (pictured, forecast for Thursday)

The Saharan plume is also pulling up large amounts of dust which are due to make air pollution worse across Europe (pictured, the pollution forecast for Wednesday, left, and Thursday, right)

The Montparnasse Tower covered by high levels of air pollution as seen from Meudon in Paris, France, on Wednesday

The Montparnasse Tower covered by high levels of air pollution as seen from Meudon in Paris, France, on Wednesday

The Pope was seen dabbing his head and neck with a tissue as temperatures climbed at the Vatican in Italy this morning

The Pope was seen dabbing his head and neck with a tissue as temperatures climbed at the Vatican in Italy this morning

People brave heat to attend the general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Wednesday

People brave heat to attend the general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Wednesday

Bishops shelter from the sun as they wait for the start of Pope Francis' weekly audience at the Vatican on Wednesday

Bishops shelter from the sun as they wait for the start of Pope Francis’ weekly audience at the Vatican on Wednesday

Muggy: Tower Bridge in London is pictured this morning under a cloudy sky as the capital is set to be hit by a heatwave, with temperatures climbing over the course of the next few days

Muggy: Tower Bridge in London is pictured this morning under a cloudy sky as the capital is set to be hit by a heatwave, with temperatures climbing over the course of the next few days 

In Switzerland, a level four warning of severe danger is now in place for the Basel region, central Valais and Ticino with 102F (39C) forecast. 

School exams due to take place later in the week in France have been cancelled to keep students safe, while officials at the women’s World Cup – which is taking place in France – are considering letting players take water breaks during games to keep cool.

French President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday that vigilance was the watchword for the week and insisted the ‘whole government’ was focused on the crisis.

‘As you know, at times like these, sick people, pregnant women, infants and elderly people are the most vulnerable,’ he said.

‘So we must be vigilant with them and have prevention measures in place in order to intervene as quickly as possible.’

French health minister Agnes Buzyn insisted that authorities ‘are not scaremongering’ over the heat, which has been compared to the 2003 heatwave which occurred around the same time of year.

Early summer heatwaves are especially dangerous because people’s bodies have not adjusted to seasonal norms, making them more deadly than heatwaves that occur in July or August. 

In Britain, temperatures are expected to reach 80F (27C) amid muggy conditions today before climbing further at the weekend when highs of 88F (31C) are possible. Revellers arriving at Glastonbury festival today were wearing boots after torrential heavy rain earlier this week - but their attire will likely change when temperatures climb on Saturday

In Britain, temperatures are expected to reach 80F (27C) amid muggy conditions today before climbing further at the weekend when highs of 88F (31C) are possible. Revellers arriving at Glastonbury festival today were wearing boots after torrential heavy rain earlier this week – but their attire will likely change when temperatures climb on Saturday

A 70-year-old man died on Marseillan Plage, near Montpellier (pictured) on Monday, while two more people - a 62-year-old woman and 75-year-old man - died in the same region Tuesday

A 70-year-old man died on Marseillan Plage, near Montpellier (pictured) on Monday, while two more people – a 62-year-old woman and 75-year-old man – died in the same region Tuesday

Spanish forecaster Silvia Laplana tweeted this heat map of Spain on Monday, joking: 'El infierno (hell) is coming'

Spanish forecaster Silvia Laplana tweeted this heat map of Spain on Monday, joking: ‘El infierno (hell) is coming’

England: Three day weather forecast shows a drastic improvement from the rain and thunder storms we have been experiencing is to come on Thursday

England: Three day weather forecast shows a drastic improvement from the rain and thunder storms we have been experiencing is to come on Thursday

Why are temperatures so high and conditions so dangerous? 

The heatwave sweeping Europe is being caused by a 2,000-mile wide plume of hot air dubbed the ‘Saharan bubble’ blown in from North Africa by an unusually strong jet stream.

Early summer heatwaves are especially dangerous because people’s bodies have not adjusted to seasonal norms, making them more deadly than heatwaves that occur in July or August.

In particular officials have warned of the dangers of dehydration and heat-stroke while in Germany motorists have been warned of the dangers of ‘blow-ups’ on autobahns – when the road surface disintegrates and shreds car tyres.

Those attempting to cool off quickly in the sea have also been warned of the dangers of cold shock – otherwise known as hydrocution. This occurs when the human body is subjected to a sudden decrease in temperature.

It typically occurs when someone falls through ice into very cold water, but can be triggered when a body goes from a very hot place – like a beach – to cold water such as the sea. 

Parts of Europe, including north-eastern Germany are also at high risk for forest fires.

Meanwhile, powerful winds from the south are also bringing with them a high concentration of small particles PM2.5 which stay in the air for a long time because they are so light.

These fine particles can come from various sources including the likes of power plants, cars, airplanes, forest fires and dust storms.

Fine particles tend to stay longer in the air than heavier particles, increasing the chances of humans and animals inhaling them.

The 2003 heatwave led to the deaths of an estimated 70,000 people across Europe, and 15,000 in France alone. 

Britain is also set to swelter in temperatures above 86F (30C) following the past two days of widespread downpours and flooding.

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Spanish national forecaster AEMET has predicted temperatures of 104F (40C) in Toledo on Wednesday, climbing to 108F on Thursday and Friday. 

In Austria, Vienna’s famous horses were taken off the streets Tuesday amid concerns they could overheat.

Scientists say measurements show that heatwaves in Europe are becoming more frequent. 

Rahmstorf said ‘monthly heat records all over the globe occur five times as often today as they would in a stable climate’.

Officials across Europe have released guidelines for surviving the scorching weather and hospitals are on high-alert for a surge in admissions related to dehydration, heat-stroke and other weather-related conditions.

In Germany, rescue services urged people to look out for young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems who are at particular risk in high temperatures.

Authorities in Saxony-Anhalt, west of Berlin, imposed 60mph speed limits on the usually limit-free autobahns amid fears the heat could cause the road surface to disintegrate and shred car tyres, as it did in 2015.

In Paris, officials pledged to open ‘cool rooms’ inside public buildings, set up temporary water fountains and leave the city’s parks and gardens unlocked and accessible at night.

City workers would also distribute water to the homeless and install fans in schools and nurseries.

Meanwhile, experts in France warned that a so-called heat sink can drive temperatures up another 10 degrees Celcius.  

The phenomenon where cities – where concrete and asphalt swelters in the heat – are hotter than the surrounding countryside is actually known as an urban heat island, and while the effect exists year-round, it is most acutely felt at exactly the worst moment – a heatwave. 

In the countryside, vegetation uses sunlight and water from the soil for photosynthesis which in addition to converting carbon dioxide into oxygen, also releases water into the air.

Cooling off: A woman escapes from the heat in a fountain just across the river from the Eiffel Tower in Paris - where temperatures may feel as high as 117F (47C)

Cooling off: A woman escapes from the heat in a fountain just across the river from the Eiffel Tower in Paris – where temperatures may feel as high as 117F (47C) 

A woman adjusts her hair while walking under a cloudless sky next to the Colosseum in Rome, where temperatures could reach as high as 100F (38C) in the coming days

A woman adjusts her hair while walking under a cloudless sky next to the Colosseum in Rome, where temperatures could reach as high as 100F (38C) in the coming days 

A temperature of 36C was recorded at a swimming pool in Essen, Germany, on Tuesday - with conditions set to worsen throughout the week

A temperature of 36C was recorded at a swimming pool in Essen, Germany, on Tuesday – with conditions set to worsen throughout the week

People enjoy the sunny and warm weather on the beach plage des Eaux-Vives on the shore of Lake of Geneva, in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday

People enjoy the sunny and warm weather on the beach plage des Eaux-Vives on the shore of Lake of Geneva, in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday

Visitors swim in a swimming pool in Essen, Germany, as the heatwaves settles in what forecasters are warning will likely be record-breaking temperatures for June

Visitors swim in a swimming pool in Essen, Germany, as the heatwaves settles in what forecasters are warning will likely be record-breaking temperatures for June

An elderly person drinking a glass of water to avoid heatstroke in Clermont-Ferrand, France

An elderly person drinking a glass of water to avoid heatstroke in Clermont-Ferrand, France

People walk around a lake at the melting Rhone Glacier in Furka, Switzerland, which will also see high temperatures this week

People walk around a lake at the melting Rhone Glacier in Furka, Switzerland, which will also see high temperatures this week

This helps disperse solar energy and cool the surrounding area. Meanwhile, in cities, there is not nearly as much vegetation to disperse heat.

Moreover, asphalt and cement absorb solar energy during the day and release it during the night.

The result is the city is hotter than the surrounding countryside, as buildings and streets act as a giant heat sink, and this is most noticeable during heatwaves.

France’s national meteorological service has found an average annual difference between Paris and surrounding rural areas on the order of 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (4 – 5 degrees Fahrenheit).

During a heatwave, the difference ‘can reach close to 10 degrees Celsius’, said Meteo-France. 

To the list of factors making cities feel like ovens, there is another one which must be added: air conditioning.

‘The more you use air conditioning in buildings, the more you heat the outside air,’ noted Lemonsu.

The vicious circle of air conditioning is abetted by the design of major cities.

A study published in a March 2018 issue of Physical Review Letters found that the more a city is designed into a square grid pattern, the more it traps heat.

The orientation of buildings can also play a role – letting in more light lets in more heat.  



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