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Europe swelters in record-breaking June heatwave


PARIS (AFP) – Spain, France and other western European nations sweltered over the weekend under a blistering June heatwave that has sparked forest fires and concerns such early summer blasts of hot weather will now become the norm.

The weekend’s soaring temperatures were the peak of a June heatwave in line with scientists’ predictions that such phenomena will now strike earlier in the year thanks to global warming.

The popular French south-western seaside resort of Biarritz saw its highest all-time temperature Saturday (June 18) afternoon of 42.9 deg C, state forecaster Meteo France said as authorities urged vigilance from the central western coast down to the Spanish border.

Many parts of the region surpassed 40 deg C, although storms were expected on the Atlantic coast on Sunday evening – the first signs that the stifling temperatures will “gradually regress to concern only the eastern part of the country,” the weather service reported.

The baking heat failed to put off heavy metal aficionados attending the Hellfest festival at Clisson on the outskirts of the western city of Nantes, where temperatures soared beyond 40 deg C.

Those who found the energy to headbang to the music were grateful for several water fountains on hand which sprayed them periodically.

Queues of hundreds of people and traffic jams formed outside aquatic leisure parks in France, with people seeing water as the only refuge from the devastating heat.

With the River Seine off limits to bathing, scorched Parisians took refuge in the city’s fountains.

And at Vincennes Zoo in the capital’s outskirts, shaggy-haired lions licked and pawed at frozen blood fed to them by zookeepers, who monitored the enclosure’s animals for signs of dehydration under the scorching sun.

“This is the earliest heatwave ever recorded in France” since 1947, said Mr Matthieu Sorel, a climatologist at Meteo France, as June records fell in a dozen areas, leading him to call the weather a “marker of climate change”.

Forest fires rage

In a major incident in France, a fire triggered by the firing of an artillery shell in military training in the Var region of southern France was burning some 200ha (495 acres) of vegetation, local authorities said.

“There is no threat to anyone except 2,500 sheep who are being evacuated and taken to safety,” said local fire brigade chief Olivier Pecot.

The fire came from the Canjeurs military camp, the biggest such training site in Western Europe.



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