The historic early summer heatwave compelled European cities to take exceptional steps to limit its impact because the temperatures across Europe approached monthly as well as records of all time in some places.
A storm stalling over the Atlantic along with high pressure over central Europe is pulling very hot air northwards from the Sahara. There is warning from authorities that temperatures could cross 40C and reach 45C in parts of the continent by Saturday.
On Wednesday as the 38.6C recorded in Coschen, near the Polish border in Germany, surpassed the country’s earlier June high, a speed limit of 120km/h on stretches of the Saxony-Anhalt autobahn was imposed by the officials because the road surface started to deteriorate, and near Rostock on the Baltic Sea, rail tracks got buckled.
A man when stopped riding his moped naked in Brandenburg made police “speechless,” while a group of women when ordered by the guards to put on their bikini tops created uproar in Munich. Following that, the city council was set to debate a regulation change that allows topless bathing.
Meanwhile, the schools in parts of France, where the temperature could cross an all-time heat record of 44.1C on Friday, were expected to remain closed until the end of the week. While in Paris, Lyon, Strasbourg, and Marseille, authorities banned older cars to enter their city centers to fight pollution.
As per the estimation of Regional Île-de-France authorities, nearly 60% of vehicles circulating the French capital would get affected by the measure, including delivery vans and trucks, and many cars 10 years and older with higher emissions compared to newer models.
In Milan, charities were preparing to distribute 10,000 free water bottles to the homeless and other needy people because of the forecast to hit 40C temperatures, while 33 out of 50 provinces in Spain will be confronting record-breaking temperatures that are likely to reach 44C.
The famous “fiaker” carriage horses of Innsbruck were taken off the streets as the temperature rose to 36.7C in the city, breaking the record of 2012 with 36.6C for the state of Tyrol.
Three people died while swimming in southern France, including two in their 70s, after suffering heart attacks and other problems. French authorities have warned about the dangers of diving into cold water in hot conditions, but there was no immediate confirmation that the heatwave caused the deaths.
The health services and retirement homes were put on alert by the authorities. The children and older people were urged to stay indoors, free water was distributed, and vigilance against dehydration and heatstroke were recommended.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, said: “As you know, at times like these, sick people, pregnant women, infants, and elderly people are the most vulnerable.
“We must be vigilant and have preventive measures in place in order to intervene as quickly as possible.”
Agnès Buzyn, health minister of France, said, the country was better prepared compared to the 2003 heatwave when 15,000 more people died than in a normal summer. “Our plans have got better and better,” she said. “Our alerts are more efficient.”
The societal change was going to be necessary, Buzyn said. “We will have to change the way we live, the way we act, the way we work, travel, dress … We are going to have to change our habits and stop thinking these episodes are exceptional.”
The interior ministry of Poland said, 90 people, trying to cool off in lakes or rivers have drowned this month so far, and in Lithuania in similar circumstances, 27 people were reported to have died as the temperatures soared above 35C in the Baltic state.
Because of strong winds and high temperatures, a forest fire in Catalonia, in Spain, destroyed some 2,500 hectares of land. The 14 water-dropping aircraft and hundreds of firefighters were combating the blaze on Wednesday night.
According to scientists, like last year’s, Europe’s heatwave in 2019, was closely linked to the climate emergency and that such extreme weather events are more likely to occur many times over the coming decades.