An extremely dangerous heat wave is developing across the Iberian peninsula and will be peaking this weekend with authorities saying parts of the region could beat the all-time continental European record of 48 degrees Celsius.
That record was set in Athens, Greece in July 1977. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the record for Spain is currently 47.3 Celsius, while for Portugal it's 47.4 Celsius.
Temperatures are being driven higher across the Iberian peninsula by a hot air mass moving northward from Africa, which is also bringing dust from the Sahara Desert, meteorologists said.
By Saturday, the thermometers in Portugal could be hitting 47 degrees Celsius in the southeastern town of Beja. The highest temperature recorded Thursday was 45.2 degrees Celsius near Abrantes, a town 150 kilometres northeast of the capital, Lisbon, the Portuguese national weather service IPMA said. In the country almost 11,000 firefighters and 56 aircraft are on standby to tackle forest fires.
In the case of Spain, heat warnings have been issued for 41 of the country’s 50 provinces as temperatures are expected to reach up to 44 degrees Celsius. The areas most affected by the intense heat in Spain will be Extremadura, Castilla La Mancha, Andalusia, Madrid and the Ebro Valley.
The heatwave is also melting other parts of Europe. Southwest France could see temperatures reach 40 degrees Celsius (C). The country has already had an intense bout of hot weather this summer, with July temperatures breaking weather records as the hottest on record since 2006 and 1983.
In Italy, some parts of the country reached 38C with tourists staying close to fountains to keep cool.
In the UK and Germany, highs on Friday are anticipated to range from 31C in London to 33C in Berlin. The U.K.'s Met Office weather service says July was the country's third-warmest in more than a century.
In northern Europe, Sweden is still under threat from wildfires, which in recent weeks have extended into the Arctic Circle. Scientists say the Scandinavian country's highest peak, a glacier on the southern tip of the Kebnekaise Mountain, a popular tourist destination located in Sweden's far north, at 2,111 meters, is melting and is no longer the nation's tallest point.
In Eastern Europe, Poland is also enduring unusually high temperatures as the hot African air pushed the mercury up to 34 degrees Celsius.
Farmers across the continent are battling the effects of drought, so the European Union offered to speed up funds to help them cope.
Health experts are warning of the need to drink plenty of water, and they also advise avoiding exposure to the sun as much as possible, as well as taking special care with children, elderly people and sick. Vets say make sure that animals have proper access to water and shade.
UPDATE 04/08/2018 12:32
As this weekend is predicted to be the hottest on record in Spain and Portugal, three deaths are already linked to the extreme heatwave. Three men have died from heatstroke in Spain. One of them was a roadworker in his 40s, the other one was a 78-year-old pensioner and the third one was a middle-aged man, who media said appeared to be homeless. He was found collapsed on a street in Barcelona and taken to hospital where he later died of heatstroke, Catalonia’s civil protection agency said in a statement.
UPDATE 06/08/2018 12:05
Temperatures in Portugal began to ease from near record levels on Sunday, but hundreds of firefighters are battling a wildfire for a third day in the south. More than 100 people were evacuated from villages near Monchique, in the southern Algarve region on Saturday as two blazes raged close by.
Nine emergency workers have been injured since the fire broke out on Friday, although none are thought to be seriously hurt.
Flames have consumed more than 1,000 hectares of forest, an area the size of over 1,200 soccer fields in in the Monchique area.
Wildfires last year killed 114 people in Portugal’s worst such tragedy on record.
UPDATE 09/08/2018 18:22
Fires rage for a seventh day scorching the popular tourist region of the Algarve. So far the blaze has resulted in more than 40 injuries - one serious - but there have been no deaths.The fire has scorched 23,500 hectares, according to the European Forest Fire Information System. Around 2,500 people have been forced to evacuate the region. Around 2,500 people have been forced to evacuate the region.
With reporting by Reuters and news agencies