Heat wave sweeps through Europe, 23 dead

24th July 2006, Comments 0 comments

24 July 2006, Countries across Europe were sweltering under a prolonged heat wave over the weekend with at least 23 people reported dead from the heat in France and Spain as temperatures soared to record levels. "More than 20" people have died in France as a result of the heat wave that has been affecting the country for one week, the government's Institute of Health Oversight announced Friday. The victims included 10 people between the ages of 80 and 94, four workers who succumbed to the heat on the job,

24 July 2006

Countries across Europe were sweltering under a prolonged heat wave over the weekend with at least 23 people reported dead from the heat in France and Spain as temperatures soared to record levels.

"More than 20" people have died in France as a result of the heat wave that has been affecting the country for one week, the government's Institute of Health Oversight announced Friday.

The victims included 10 people between the ages of 80 and 94, four workers who succumbed to the heat on the job, two people engaging in sports activities and an adolescent of 15 years of age.

In addition, police in the western French city of Nantes said a 53-year-old man collapsed and died Tuesday because of the heat while walking to his home.

Earlier Friday, the French weather service Meteo France placed 25 departments, or regions, on orange alert - the second-highest level - until Sunday because temperatures in the designated areas were expected to climb above 33 degrees Celsius, and up to 38 degrees in some localities.

In August 2003, some 15,000 people, most of them elderly, died in France during a two-week heat wave.

The current heat wave in Britain is costing the economy 168 million pounds (307 million dollars) a day in lost productivity, according to press reports Friday.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) calculated that, when temperatures soar to 32 degrees - the average so far this week - productivity dives by 29 per cent.

Changes in spending patterns would lead to a loss of 5.8 million pounds, while an extra 3 million pounds a day spent on drinks, including beer and wine, is wiped out by lost retail sales.

According to the Daily Mail Friday, 3.9 million pounds were lost through staff arriving late because trains were delayed in the heat due to speed restrictions, or because people preferred to travel outside peak hours.

"People think that there is a lot more spending when it's sunny because they are buying ice creams and beer and lots of other things to keep them cool, but this is offset by much bigger losses elsewhere," CEBR economist Jaspreet Sehmi said.

Temperatures in southern Britain reached a peak of 36.5 degrees Tuesday - the hottest for July since records began in 1911.

Almost all the major Underground (Tube) lines through London suffered long delays Thursday as communication systems failed in the heat, leaving millions stranded.

Temperatures on the trains reached 47 degrees.

As temperatures in the upper 20s, coupled with extreme humidity, continued in large parts of southern and central Britain, the island of Lewis in the Western Isles off the coast of Scotland recorded a cool 13 degrees and overcast skies.

Czech meteorologists said Friday's clear-sky temperatures in Prague could top the city's record for a third day in a row. The mercury reached a new high Wednesday, and Thursday's temperature of 35.3 broke a record in place since 1865.

In the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, Meteomedia weather service measured the country's hottest temperature this year: 38.9 degrees in the town of Bernburg.

The stifling heat wave that has been gripping northern Europe reached Italy on Friday, with temperatures exceeding 35 degrees in many parts of the country.

Weathermen said temperatures were set to rise further on Saturday, prompting officials to raise alarm levels.

Farmers' group Coldiretti said the dry weather had already caused hundreds of millions of euros in damages to agriculture, particularly in the north-east.

The European Union predicted the drought would cause a 9-per-cent drop in the production of grain, with maize and barley harvests also likely to suffer.

The Po, Italy's largest river, shrunk to its lowest level ever due to a prolonged lack of rain.

Several Spanish regions also issued heat warnings to residents as temperatures were expected to top 40 degrees in some places over the next few days.

A 32-year-old man became the third person to die of heat-related health problems this summer. He died of a heat stroke Thursday after working out of doors near Caceres in the south-west.

Meanwhile back in northern Europe, the current heat wave in Denmark has triggered a wave of thefts as many thieves take advantage of doors and windows left open by house owners sweltering in the heat, reports said.

"We see a clear rise in house thefts during the summer period compared to other seasons," police spokesman Steffen Hedemann of the Nykobing Falster police told commercial broadcaster TV2 Ost.

Austrian climate expert for the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) Markus Niedermair said Friday the current Europe-wide heatwave was "man-made" and not a natural phenomenon.

"We're experiencing a climate change caused by humankind," Niedermair said as Friday midday temperatures in Austria reached 36 degrees. Too high levels of carbon dioxide emitted round the world were to blame, he said.

Eight of the 10 warmest years on record occurred between 1996 and 2006. Since 1970, the average temperature in Vienna had gone up by 1.2 degrees, Niedermair told the newspaper Der Standard.

In Austria, the ambulance services reported 10 per cent more calls since the heat wave started.

In the Pinzgau region of the province of Salzburg, a forest fire was brought under control after three days. Another fire in the area of Gmunden in northern Austria meanwhile spread to an area of 70,000 square metres.

DPA

Subject: German news

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