People refresh themselves on a fountain at La Concha beach in the northern Spanish city of San Sebastian on June 26, 2019 at the start of a heatwave tipped to break records across Europe. PHOTO: ANDER GILLENEA / AFP
Temperatures in France are expected to hit a record high on Friday, as Europe swelters in a heatwave blamed for several deaths, including a 17-year-old farm worker in Spain.
The Spanish teenager felt dizzy while helping harvest wheat in the southern Andalusia region.
After a dip in a swimming pool to cool off, he collapsed with convulsions and 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, who gave heatstroke as the cause of death.
Heat-related deaths have also been reported in Italy, France and Germany, mainly among the elderly.
France was bracing for what could be the hottest day in its history on Friday — an extraordinary event for June.
Temperatures are forecast to reach 45 degrees Celsius in the south, beating the current record of 44.1 degrees dating to the catastrophic heatwave of August 2003.
That year, nearly 15,000 people are estimated to have died because of the heat, many of them elderly people at home.
The episode has caused every governments since to be extremely vigilant during heatwaves.
In Montpellier, 81-year-old Suzette Allegre was up early to do her shopping.
By 8:00 am, “the sun is already burning hot and you can smell the pollution,” she told AFP, saying she was rushing home to barricade herself indoors.
The area surrounding Montpellier and the nearby city of Nimes — where the 2003 record was set — was placed on the highest alert level Friday, as were Marseille and Avignon.
Most school outings were called off in the four areas and all sports classes cancelled.
– Fire hydrants uncapped –
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 seen exercising in the midday heat.
Also Thursday, a six-year-old Syrian child was seriously injured after being catapulted into the air by water gushing from an open fire hydrant and then crashing to the ground.
The incident occurred in the multi-ethnic Saint-Denis neighbourhood north of Paris, where “uncapping” hydrants has long been used as a way to cool off.
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.
And a day earlier, at least four people died in Germany in bathing accidents.
– Flaming manure –
In Spain, firefighters were continuing to battle a large forest fire in the northeastern Catalonia region.
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 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.
Residents of the city of Grenoble were unable to use two municipal swimming pools despite the record temperatures, due to a row sparked by use of the full-body Islamic burkini swimsuit.
Lifeguards had asked for the shutdown after Muslim women clad in burkinis had gone to swim in defiance of a municipal ban on the outfits.