‘Lu­cifer’ heat wave keeps parts of EU in red alert

A taste of worse to fol­low in com­ing decades

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL -

ROME: Swaths of south­ern Europe swel­tered Satur­day in a heat­wave 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 de­grees Cel­sius (104 de­grees Faren­heit) 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 15-20 per­cent in Italy, 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. The lat­est vic­tim was a woman whose car was swept away overnight by an avalanche of wa­ter and mud as hu­mid con­di­tions near the Alpine ski re­sort of Cortina d’Am­pezzo broke into tor­ren­tial rain. That tragedy fol­lows the deaths on Thurs­day of two pen­sion­ers, a 79-year-old woman and an 82-year-old man, who were caught up in wild­fires in, re­spec­tively, the cen­tral re­gion of Abruzzo and near Mat­era in the south of the coun­try.

Foun­tain splash­ing

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 Cel­sius (131 Faren­heit) on Fri­day.

Hos­pi­tal ad­mis­sions are run­ning 15-20 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 hotspots be­ing de­terred by the ris­ing trend in tem­per­a­tures.

Tourists were queue­ing 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 heat­wave which re­sulted in an es­ti­mated 15,000 avoid­able deaths among pen­sion­ers, some of whom had been left on their own by hol­i­day­mak­ing rel­a­tives.

150,000 weather deaths?

Sci­en­tists mean­while warned that deaths due to ex­treme weather in Europe could in­crease fifty­fold 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 heat­waves would ac­count for 99 per­cent of the deaths, ac­cord­ing to re­search con­ducted for the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and pub­lished in The Lancet Plan­e­tary Health.

The con­clu­sions were ques­tioned by Korean peers of the re­searchers who sug­gested hu­mans would be­come less vul­ner­a­ble to ex­treme weather with ex­pe­ri­ence of it. Me­teo France fore­caster Fred­eric Nathan said he was sure re­cent heat­waves re­flected global warn­ing. “We have al­ways had them but their length and in­ten­sity has notched up since the 1950s and 60s and they are in­creas­ingly com­ing ear­lier or later. “If you look at records for France, the vast ma­jor­ity of new records be­ing set are for high tem­per­a­tures. Record cold is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly rare.” Sci­en­tist warned last week that large parts of South Asia, home to a fifth of the world’s pop­u­la­tion, could be­come un­bear­ably hot by the end of this cen­tury.

ROME: A man lays on a bench in the shadow un­der trees in front the “Altare della Pa­tria” (the Un­known Sol­dier mon­u­ment), in cen­tral Rome, yes­ter­day, as tem­per­a­tures reached more than 40 de­grees Cel­sius. —AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.