Heatwave sears Europe

A heatwave searing Western Europe over the last few days have led to Belgium, Germany and Netherlands recording their highest ever temperatures.

The Belgian town of Kleine Brogel hit 39.9C, the hottest since 1833; the southern Dutch city of Eindhoven beat the 75-year-old national record, with a new high of 39.3C and Germany’s weather service said a new record of 40.5C had been set in Geilenkirchen, near the Belgian and Dutch borders.

Meanwhile in France, the authorities claim that five deaths reported recently might have been caused by the heatwave. The highest temperature recorded in Paris, 40.4C in 1947, is expected to be surpassed on Thursday. Authorities have launched a red alert in the Paris region and 19 other French departments, calling for “absolute vigilance”, and comparisons were drawn to a heatwave in August 2003, during which almost 15,000 deaths were attributed to the heat.

In comparison, Kuwait is expected to witness a temperature of 50C on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Europe, the city-state of Luxembourg has been put on red alert for the south and the capital, as temperatures are expected to cross 40C on Thursday. In Portugal, hundreds of firefighters extinguished a forest fire that had been plaguing the Castelo Branco region for days. Spain has also declared a red alert in its Zaragoza region, which was hit by devastating wildfires last month. In the UK, temperatures are predicted to exceed a relatively mild 35C, but it could turn out to be the highest ever recorded

In June, France set an all-time high-temperature record of 46C, and new June highs were set in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Andorra, Luxembourg, Poland and Germany.

While extreme weather events such as heatwaves occur naturally, experts say these will happen more often because of climate change. Scientists are concerned that rapid warming linked to use of fossil fuels has serious implications for the stability of the planet’s climate. Records going back to the late 19th Century show that the average temperature of the Earth’s surface has increased by about one degree since industrialisation.