Heat wave

Euro­peans cope with high tem­per­a­tures

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

ROME — Swathes of southern Europe swel­tered Satur­day in a heat wave that has claimed sev­eral lives, cost bil­lions in crop dam­age and is, sci­en­tists warned, a fore­taste of worse to fol­low in com­ing decades.

At least five deaths in Italy and Ro­ma­nia have been at­trib­uted to the ex­treme con­di­tions since the heat­wave set in around the start of Au­gust.

Un­usu­ally high, some­times un­prece­dented tem­per­a­tures, are be­ing recorded across an area span­ning much of the Ibe­rian penin­sula (Spain and Por­tu­gal), southern France, Italy, the Balkans and Hun­gary.

Ther­mome­ter mer­cury has reg­u­larly risen above 40 C across the af­fected ar­eas, ex­ac­er­bat­ing the im­pact of an ex­tended drought and the lingering im­pact of a July heat­wave which sparked wild­fires that claimed 60 lives in Por­tu­gal.

Hos­pi­tal ad­mis­sions have spiked 15 to 20 per­cent in Ita- ly, where at least three peo­ple have died.

Ital­ians long­ing for the beach have dubbed the hot spell “Lu­cif­ero”, or Lu­cifer, af­ter the bi­b­li­cal ar­changel said to have been con­demned for­ever to the flames of hell.

In Ro­ma­nia, two deaths were linked to the weather, in­clud­ing a farm­worker who col­lapsed af­ter work­ing in fields in the heat at Mo­gos­esti in the north­east of the coun­try.

In Italy, hu­mid­ity and other fac­tors are mak­ing it feel much hot­ter with the so-called per­ceived tem­per­a­ture in Cam­pa­nia, the re­gion around Naples, es­ti­mated at a broil­ing 55 C on Fri­day.

Hos­pi­tal ad­mis­sions are run­ning 15 to 20 per­cent above sea­sonal norms and food pro­duc­ers are fore­cast to suf­fer bil­lions of euros in losses as a re­sult of re­duced crop yields.

Ital­ian wine and olive pro­duc­tion is tipped to fall 15 and 30 per­cent re­spec­tively this year.

In Rome, tourists have been risk­ing re­cently-in­tro­duced fines for splash­ing in the Eter­nal City’s foun­tains to cool off.

But there has yet to be any sign of vis­i­tors to southern Europe’s sum­mer hot spots be­ing de­terred by the ris­ing trend in tem­per­a­tures.

Tourists were lining up once more Satur­day out­side Florence’s Uf­fizi mu­seum, which was forced to close Fri­day af­ter its air con­di­tion­ing broke down be­cause of a lack of water from the dried up River Arno.

Health au­thor­i­ties in France have warned cit­i­zens to be par­tic­u­larly aware of the risks faced by the sick and the el­derly.

The coun­try is still haunted by mem­o­ries of a 2003 heat wave which re­sulted in an es­ti­mated 15,000 avoid­able deaths among pen­sion­ers, some of whom had been left on their own by hol­i­day­mak­ing rel­a­tives.

Sci­en­tists mean­while warned that deaths due to ex­treme weather in Europe could in­crease from an es­ti­mated 3,000 per year re­cently to 152,000 by the end of this cen­tury — if global warm­ing is not reined in.

Southern Europe will suf­fer most and heat waves would ac­count for 99 per­cent of the deaths, ac­cord­ing to re­search con­ducted for the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and pub­lished in The Lancet Plan­e­tary Health.

Sci­en­tists warned last week that large parts of South Asia, home to one-fifth of the world’s pop­u­la­tion, could be­come un­bear­ably hot by the end of this cen­tury.

PEDJA MILOSAVLJEVIC / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A girl jumps into a pub­lic swim­ming pool in Bel­grade on Satur­day. Southern Europe and the Balkans are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a heat wave with tem­per­a­tures reach­ing more than 40 C.

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