Limitoo News

Deadly heatwave sweeps across southern Europe

A heat wave hits Barcelona during the first weeks of July, in Barcelona, Spain, on 11 July, 2023. This is expected to be a summer with record temperatures in many parts of Spain due to climate change.
Barcelona on 11 July, 2023. Spain has been sweltering for days in temperatures of up to 45C. Photo: NurPhoto via AFP

A heatwave is sweeping across parts of southern Europe, with potential record-breaking temperatures in the coming days.

Temperatures are expected to surpass 40C in parts of Spain, France, Greece, Croatia and Turkey.

In Italy, temperatures could reach as high as 48.8C. A red alert warning has been issued for 10 cities, including Rome, Bologna and Florence.

On Tuesday, a man in his forties died after collapsing in northern Italy.

Italian media reported that the 44-year-old worker was painting zebra crossing lines in the town of Lodi, near Milan, before he collapsed from the heat. He was taken to hospital where he later died.

Several visitors to the country have collapsed from heatstroke, including a British man outside the Colosseum in Rome.

People have been advised to drink at least two litres of water a day and to avoid coffee and alcohol, which are dehydrating.

Two Australian tourists on the streets of Rome told the BBC they were "really surprised" by the heat.

"It does spoil our plans as tourists a bit," Melbourne friends Maria and Gloria said. "We are trying to not go out in the middle of the day."

Italian tourists Andrea Romano and Michele La Penna told the BBC their hometown of Potenza, in the Apennine mountains, has "more humane temperatures" than Rome.

"We need to start doing something about climate change. We need to be more responsible. The damage is already done. We need to do something about it. But not only the government… It all starts from people. Each of us needs to do something: use less plastic, don't use the AC, use electric cars," said Andrea.

The Cerberus heatwave - named by the Italian Meteorological Society after the three-headed monster that features in Dante's Inferno - is expected to bring more extreme conditions in the next few days.

Spain has been sweltering for days in temperatures of up to 45C and overnight temperatures in much of the country did not drop below 25C.

The Andalusian regional government has started a telephone assistance service for people affected by the heat which has received 54,000 calls since it opened in early June.

A satellite image recorded by the EU's Copernicus Sentinel mission revealed that the land surface temperature in the Extremadura region had hit 60C on Tuesday.

The UK's national weather service, the Met Office, says temperatures will peak on Friday. BBC Weather says large swathes of southern Europe could see temperatures in the low to mid 40s - and possibly higher.

But as Cerberus dies out, Italian weather forecasters are warning that the next heatwave - dubbed Charon after the ferryman who delivered souls into the underworld in Greek mythology - will push temperatures back up towards 43C in Rome and a possible 47C on the island of Sardinia.

A new study says 61,672 people died in Europe as a result of the heat last year. ISGlobal Institute in Barcelona - which researches global health - said Italy had the most deaths that could be attributable to the heat, with 18,010, while Spain had 11,324 and Germany 8173.

A woman tries to cool off at a fountain at Syntagma Square during heatwave 'Cleon' in Athens, Greece, on July 13, 2023.
A woman tries to cool off at a fountain at Syntagma Square in Athens, Greece, on 13 July, 2023. Photo: NurPhoto via AFP

The fear is that the heat could cause many more deaths this summer.

Cities in Spain with the highest risk of deaths caused by the heat are Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla, Málaga, Murcia, Palma de Mallorca and Bilbao, according to ISGlobal's research.

A heatwave is a period of hot weather where temperatures are higher than is expected for the time of year.

Experts say periods of exceptionally hot weather are becoming more frequent and climate change means it is now normal to experience record-breaking temperatures.

At present there is no indication the heat in southern Europe will reach the UK any time soon - with the UK remaining in cooler, Atlantic air throughout next week, according to BBC Weather's Darren Bett.

The UK is experiencing a July that has been slightly wetter than normal, with temperatures that feel rather low. But this is mostly in contrast to the weather in the UK in June, which was the warmest on record by a considerable margin - something which, according to the Met Office, bore the "fingerprint of climate change".

* This story was first published by the BBC