Much of southern and central Europe was again baking in blistering hot temperatures on Saturday as an intense heat wave that took hold earlier in the week continued.
“Red alerts” have been issued for 15 cities across Italy, up from 10 on Friday, including some of the biggest tourist destinations in the country, like Florence, Bologna and the capital Rome. Forecasters warn temperatures could hit record highs next week.
The Italian capital hit a high of 35 C on Saturday and was expected to see temperatures as high as 42 C on Tuesday.
Forecasters say cities on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia could see temperatures as high as 48 C next week, close to a record high for Europe, as a second heat wave hits the country. The hottest temperature ever recorded on the continent was 48.8 C in Sicily, in August 2021.
The red alert means high heat is a threat to everyone in the population, not just more vulnerable groups like children and the elderly.
Italian authorities are asking people to keep an eye on elderly neighbours who could be living alone and under threat from the intense heat. They’ve also advised people to avoid direct sunlight from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Acropolis closed again
Greece closed the ancient Acropolis during the hottest part of the day on Friday, from noon until 5 p.m., to protect tourists as temperatures hit 40 C.
Scorching temperatures across Europe led to the closure of the iconic site in Athens for a second day on Saturday, as a high of 41 C was forecasted and officials warned of even hotter weather in the coming days, when the mercury could top 40 C in multiple Mediterranean tourist destinations.
The European Space Agency, whose satellites monitor land and sea temperatures, has warned that Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Poland are all facing extreme conditions.
Authorities in Poland warned older adults in particular to stay indoors or in the shade and well-hydrated as temperatures reached 35 C on Saturday.
In downtown Warsaw, and in other cities, makeshift hose fountains were arranged to let people and their pets cool off. Police issued warnings about not leaving children or pets unattended inside cars.
Doctors in Spain warned that poorer elderly people with existing health problems were most at risk.
“They suffer from heart issues, chronic bronchitis, stroke, kidney failure,” said Angel Abad, a preventative medicine and public health specialist at Madrid’s La Paz hospital.
Joan Ballester, a professor at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, said France had learned lessons from a deadly 2003 heat wave that countries such as Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal could follow.
“Basically, the most affected are Italy, Greece, then Spain and Portugal. These are countries that are also characterized by economic conditions that are not as advanced as the rest of the continent,” she said.
The 2003 heat wave was blamed for about 70,000 deaths across the continent, while it’s believed that more than 60,000 Europeans died due to extreme heat last summer.
Relentless heat in parts of U.S.
Extreme heat was also baking much of the United States on Saturday, with one in three Americans under some kind of heat advisory.
The heat was forecast to get worse this weekend for Nevada, Arizona and California, where desert temperatures were predicted to soar past 48.8 C during the day in some areas, and remain above 32.2 C overnight.
Over the past two weeks, the mercury has hit 43 C or higher every afternoon in Phoenix, Ariz., a streak of extreme temperatures that could stretch into next week, breaking the city’s 1974 record of 18 consecutive days, forecasters say.
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