Europe’s Heat Wave Breaks UK Temperature Records and Drives Wildfires

LONDON – For the first time on record, Britain suffered temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius – 104 degrees Fahrenheit – on Tuesday, as an intense heatwave moved to the northwest, leaving a trail of intense bushfires , many people were killed and homes were evacuated across Europe. equipped to deal with the new reality of extreme weather.

While the effect of heat spread from Greece to Scotland, the greatest damage was in France ravaged by fire. More than 2,000 firefighters battled the blaze that has consumed nearly 80 square miles of arid forest in the Gironde region, in the southwest of the country, forcing more than 37,000 people to evacuate in the past week.

Temperatures dropped overnight on Monday, but firefighters’ efforts were hampered by violent gusts of wind, arid conditions and scorching trees that sent embers igniting in the air, sparking flames. more widespread.

Matthieu Jomain, a spokesman for the regional fire department, said: “The climate conditions are insane. “It’s an explosive cocktail.”

Spain, Italy and Greece also suffered major bushfires, and in London a series of grass fires flared up around the capital on Tuesday afternoon, burning several homes – a sign of concern. afraid to show devastation can hopscotch across the English Channel.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said the city’s fire brigade was “under tremendous pressure” and it declared a “major incident”, allowing them to focus excess resources on serious incidents. important.

Temperatures in Paris hit 40.5 degrees Celsius on Tuesday, or 104.9 degrees Fahrenheit. The city has recorded temperatures above 40 only twice before, in 1947 and 2019, according to the national weather forecast. .

Britain had never recorded a temperature of 100 degrees before 2003, and as of Tuesday, the record stood at 38.7 degrees Celsius, or 101.7, set in Cambridge in 2019. The country has set a bit of meteorological history before noon, when the thermometer in Charlwood, a village in Surrey north of Gatwick Airport, reached a temperature of 39.1 degrees Celsius – and then quickly trailed that new record.

At Heathrow Airport, the mercury hit 40.2, breaking a barrier that once seemed unimaginable for a temperate northern island – the record was surpassed hours later when Coningsby, a star village in Lincolnshire, reaching 40.3 degrees, or 104.5 Fahrenheit.

At least 34 places that broke the old British record on Tuesday, according to the Met Office, the national weather service, including at least six temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius. Scotland blows up the old record is 32.9, with a reading in Charterhall of 34.8 – 94.6 Fahrenheit.

Heat continues a global pattern in recent years of past record leap instead of breaking them into small pieces.

Amid the Guinness Book of Records-style excitement over falling records is an unfortunate recognition of the human cost of dangerous heat waves. London police say they have recovered a body from the Thames and believe it is that of a 14-year-old boy who went missing swimming on Monday.

As temperatures soar, so does fear for residents of nursing homes. Residential nursing homes are not equipped to deal with extreme heat. Many are housed in old or converted buildings that do not have air conditioning. This is an issue that is particularly acute in the UK, where critics say the government’s ineffective handling of nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic has caused unnecessary deaths.

Experts and staff say greater measures need to be taken to protect the elderly. According to the country’s Health Security Administration, people over the age of 75 – whether living alone or in care homes – are among those most at risk for serious health complications from the heat.

Helen Wildbore, director of the Relatives & Residents Association, a national charity for older adults in care homes and their loved ones, said: “The past 48 hours have been unprecedented, so that’s a big concern. She says the organization’s helpline has been flooded with calls in the last week.

However, for most people, an unusually hot Monday mostly means a second day of interruption. Some public transport, many offices and some schools remain closed. The government urged people to continue working from home – an appeal that many heeded again on Tuesday – but leave schools open.

Network Rail, the company that operates the country’s rail system, has issued a “no travel” warning for trains running through areas under a “red” warning issued by the Met Office. The red zone covers an area stretching from north London to Manchester and York. Several train companies have canceled all services running north from the capital.

Trains are particularly affected by the intense heat because the infrastructure – rails and overhead wires – is not built to cope with triple-digit temperatures. Those who are still running are subject to a strict speed limit. The London Underground, most of which is not air-conditioned, also suspended some of its services.

Britain’s heat has created a stark backdrop for another big day in the increasingly intense, still-unending race to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister and leader of the Conservative Party. The fourth round of voting by Conservative Party lawmakers on Tuesday narrowed the campaign to three candidates; when only two are left, the winner will be chosen between them by a vote of party members with rank and profile.

Rishi Sunak, Exchequer’s former prime minister, won 118 votes, putting him on the cusp of advancing to the next leg. Penny Mordaunt, a little-known commerce minister who enjoyed an unexpectedly vibrant campaign, came in second with 92 votes, while Liz Truss, who is secretary of state, came in third with 86 votes. .

No candidate has gained new momentum and the three survivors are relatively close in the number of votes, analysts say it is impossible to predict which two candidates will emerge from the next round of voting on Wednesday. The new leader and prime minister will be announced after the party vote, in early September.

It feels like, with uncertainty and heat records broken, British politics and weather are simultaneously entering uncharted terrain.

Rarely does a political campaign seem so disconnected from everyday reality. Climate change was barely found in the debate between the candidates. Within its scope, candidates give only qualified support for the UK to stick to its target of reaching “net zero” on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“What it revealed was the gap between politicians and the public,” said Tom Burke, president of E3G, an environmental consultancy and a former government adviser. “The recent string of weather events has confirmed science in the public mind, but politicians, especially the right, don’t get it.”

Mr Burke said Conservative candidates promised smaller government, lower taxes and less regulation. Any effective climate policy will require stricter regulations, state intervention and some higher taxes, he said.

Of course, England isn’t the only county where climate policies collide with concerns about a tight cost of living. In Washington, Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, cited rising inflation as the main reason he refused to agree with Democrats and the White House on a climate package. overview.

“The cost of living crisis is really an excuse not to act,” Mr. Burke said.

Britain may be a microcosm of the climate crisis, but it is underway in countless other ways across Europe.

In France, authorities responded to this week’s peril with warnings and contingency plans, hoping to avoid a repeat of the appalling death toll the country suffered during the 2003 heatwave. In August of that year, some 15,000 people died, many of them elderly people living in poorly air-conditioned retirement homes, shocking the public and sparking anger against a government they considered unprepared.

In Greece, thousands of residents were ordered to leave their homes on Tuesday as a wildfire tore through woodland north of Athens. Although the temperatures were not unusually high, dry conditions and strong winds caused dozens of wildfires, the largest in the Mount Penteli region, northeast of Athens.

In the Netherlands, workers sprayed water on mechanical drawbridges in Amsterdam’s canals to prevent the metal in them from expanding, according to the Associated Press. That could clog closed bridges, hindering maritime traffic.

Amid all the sweltering heat, there is one promise of relief: Forecasters across Europe say the heat will ease by midweek. In the UK, some showers have been forecast and temperatures are forecast to drop to well below 80 degrees Fahrenheit in most of the country on Wednesday.

Report contributed by Megan Specia and Euan ward in London, Aurelien Breeden in paris, Méheut remains unchanged in La Teste-de-Buche, France, and Niki Kitsantonis in Athens.

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