Heat­waves siz­zle south­ern Europe

Mer­cury has reg­u­larly risen above 40°C across the re­gion Hos­pi­tal ad­mis­sions spiked 15-20% in Italy

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Rome, Italy - Swaths of south­ern Europe swel­tered on 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°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 15-20 per cent 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°C on Fri­day.

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

Ital­ian olive pro­duc­tion is tipped to fall 30 per cent 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 up once more on Satur­day out­side Florence’s Uf­fizi mu­seum, which was forced to close on Fri­day af­ter its air con­di­tion­ing broke down be­cause of 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 deaths?

Sci­en­tists mean­while warned that deaths due to ex­treme weather in Europe could in­crease fifty-fold 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 per cent 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.

(AFP)

Peo­ple cool them­selves in a foun­tain at Pi­azza Castello, in Turin on Au­gust 2 as heat­waves con­tinue to grip south­ern Europe

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