Britain swelters as health risks rise

10th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Many parts of Britain Saturday sweltered in temperatures which health authorities say may have already caused deaths, and a lack of rain has left parkland and gardens parched.

The highest temperature in Britain this year was recorded on Friday, at 31.7 degrees Celsius (89.1 degrees Fahrenheit) in Gravesend, southeast England, and similar conditions were expected in the region and eastern England on Saturday.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said the daytime heat and the fact that temperatures remained high at night -- around 20 degrees Celsius -- posed health risks to the elderly and very young children.

The agency also said there had been "several hundred" more deaths than normal over the past two weeks and some appeared to be linked to the heat.

"Although these are very preliminary data, their experts suggest that the hot weather may have been the cause for some of the increase," an HPA spokesman said.

Wayne Elliott, head of health forecasting at the Met Office, said: "While there is the possibility of daytime temperatures reaching trigger thresholds, it is the night time values which are of real concern.

"High humidity and the lack of any breeze could make matters worse for people with underlying health problems."

The Met Office's heat warning is level two on its four level warning scale.

Britain has experienced the driest first six months of the year since 1953 and the latest temperatures have taken an additional toll on parkland and gardens.

Aerial photographs show that the normally lush turf of Hyde Park in central London has been reduced to a dusty landscape.

However, the dryness did not extend across Britain. Heavy rain fell on northern England and Scotland on Friday and Saturday.

In the 2003 heatwave, there were 2,000 to 3,000 excess deaths in England, among 30,000 across Europe.

© 2010 AFP

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