NEW DELHI: Britain and France went on heatwave alert on Monday facing record temperatures as Europe wilted under a scorching sun and ferocious wildfires devoured more forests.
UK forecasters warned of havoc in a country unprepared for the onslaught of extreme heat that authorities said was putting lives at risk. Britain’s government triggered a “national emergency” alert as temperatures were forecast to surpass previous record of 38.7C. On Monday, the temperature nudged 38C in southern England and a new high was recorded in Wales, according to UK Meteorological Office. It is expected to be even hotter on Tuesday, when the 40C level is forecast to be exceeded for the first time. Scientists blame climate change and predict frequent episodes of extreme weather.
Across the Channel, firefighters failed to contain two massive fires in France’s southwest that have created “apocalyptic” scenes of destruction. For six days, armies of firefighters and a fleet of waterbombing aircraft have struggled against blazes. Forecasters have put 15 French departments on the highest state of alert. “In some areas, it will be a heat apocalypse,” a meteorologist said. By 1500GMT, several records had been broken locally, Meteo France said, with 42.6C in Biscarosse and 42.4C in Cazaux on the Atlantic coast in western France. It will become clear later on Monday whether a new national all-day average temperature record, now standing at 29.4C reached from the historic heat waves of 2003 and 2019, will be set.
The European heatwave, spreading north, is the second to engulf parts of the southwest of the continent within only weeks. Blazes burning in France, Greece, Portugal and Spain have destroyed thousands of hectares of land and forced thousands of residents and holidaymakers to flee.
In Britain, the government, already on the ropes after a series of scandals and PM Boris Johnson‘s resignation, drew fresh criticism for failing to take the situation seriously enough. “This is serious heat that could end in people’s deaths,” College of Paramedics chief executive Tracy Nicholls said. The Sun tabloid headlined its coverage of the heat “British Bake Off”. Train operators asked customers not to travel unless absolutely necessary, saying the heat was likely to warp rails and disrupt power supplies, leading to severe delays. Flights to and from London Luton airport were temporarily disrupted afterhigh temperatures caused a small section of its runway to lift, prompting airlines to delay or divert planes to other airports.