PARIS: The temperature in France on Friday (Jun 28) surpassed 45 degrees Celsius for the first time on record as Europe wilted in a major heatwave, state weather forecaster Meteo-France said.
The record was set in the village of Villevieille in the southern department of Gard, which registered a high of 45.1 degrees Celsius. The previous record stood at 44.1 degrees Celsius in the same area during the notorious August 2003 heatwave, Meteo-France said.
France, Spain, Italy and parts of central Europe are particularly badly hit by the high temperatures, and officials have urged people to take "common sense" precautions.
France's new record temperature of 45.9 degrees Celsius was registered in Gallargues-le-Montueux, a village in the southern department of Gard near Montpellier, breaking successive records set earlier in the day, the Meteo-France weather service told AFP.
This is the same area where the previous high of 44.1 degrees Celsius was set in August 2003. Records began at the turn of the 20th century.
The weather service said the new high was comparable to August temperatures in California's Death Valley.
Two deaths linked to the heatwave have been reported in Spain.
The World Meteorological Organisation said 2019 is on track to be among the world's hottest years, and that 2015 to 2019 would 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.
Four administrative departments in France were placed on red alert, signalling temperatures of "dangerous intensity" that are more typical of Saudi Arabia.
Temperatures in parts of Spain were expected to hit a new June record of 43 degrees Celsius.
After feeling dizzy while helping harvest wheat in the southern Andalusia region, a Spanish teenager collapsed with convulsions when he took a dip in a swimming pool to cool off.
He was rushed to hospital in the town of Cordoba where he later died, the regional government said.
Elsewhere in Spain, a 93-year-old man collapsed and died on the street in the northern city of Valladolid, police said, giving heatstroke as the cause of death.
Heat-related deaths have also been reported in Italy, France and Germany, mainly among the elderly.
France remains haunted by the memory of the devastating heatwave of August 2003 which exposed the shortcomings of emergency services at the height of the summer holidays.
That year, nearly 15,000 people are estimated to have died because of the heat, many of them elderly people at home.
"I want to appeal to the sense of responsibility of citizens - there are avoidable deaths in every heatwave," said French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.
Scientists warn that global warming linked to human fossil fuel use could make such scorchers more frequent.
Germany's national weather service said the country experienced temperatures more than four degrees higher in June than the average, on one measure.
FIRE HYDRANTS UNCAPPED
French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn warned those tempted to plunge into cold water, both young and old, to do so only in designated public bathing areas, adding that four people had drowned since the beginning of the week.
On Thursday, Buzyn complained that despite a barrage of public health warnings on radio, TV and on public transport, some parents were still leaving their children in hot cars and joggers were out exercising in the midday heat.
Also Thursday, a six-year-old Syrian child was seriously injured in the Saint-Denis neighbourhood north of Paris after being catapulted into the air by water gushing from an open fire hydrant and then crashing to the ground.
In the Italian city of Milan, a 72-year-old homeless man was found dead at the main train station on Thursday after falling ill due to the heatwave.
A day earlier, at least four people died in Germany in bathing accidents.
In Spain, firefighters managed to halt the progression of a forest fire that broke out Wednesday in the northeastern Catalonia region and had burned more than 6,000 hectares (14,800 acres).
Catalonia's forest service said the fire likely began when an "improperly managed" pile of manure at a chicken farm spontaneously combusted in the extreme heat.
Hundreds of firefighters backed by troops and aerial water bombers were trying to bring it under control.
They were hampered by roasting 44 degree Celsius temperatures and very low humidity according to David Borrell, head of the Catalan fire department.
Spain's north-east was on red heatwave alert denoting "extreme risk".
The stifling temperatures have caused air quality to nosedive in some European cities, prompting local authorities to take anti-pollution measures.
In Paris, Lyon and Marseille, authorities have banned the most polluting cars from the roads in recent days.