Europe sizzles in heatwave as wildfire hits Portugal


Saturday was the hottest day in France since the infamous heatwave of 2003. (Photo: AFP)

MADRID - Europe sweltered through an intense heatwave on Sunday, with soaring temperatures contributing to forest fires, nuclear plants closing and even threatening the Netherlands' supply of fries, although some countries experienced a slight respite.

Here is a roundup:

- Spain: Fire under control-

A top of 42 degrees Celsius (107 degrees Fahrenheit) was forecast in the southwest region of Extremadura on Sunday, where a wildfire in San Vicente de Alcantara has been brought under control by firefighters, the local fire service said.

The mercury had reached 44 C in the country's south on Saturday, the Spanish Meteorological Agency said.

The rise in temperatures has already claimed the lives of three people who died of heatstroke this week.

- Portugal: 45 C forecast -

The mercury was expected to climb to 45 C in some parts of Portugal on Sunday, but would not go above the 46.8 C recorded the day before in Alvega, 150 kilometres (93 miles) north of Lisbon, the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA) said.

Records in several cities were broken on Saturday, but none reached the nationwide record of 47.3 C in the southern village of Amareleja in 2003. 

However a forest fire continued to rage on two fronts in Monchique in the country's south on Sunday. 

Nearly 780 firefighters, supported by 200 vehicles and 10 water-dropping planes and helicopters were working to put it out, the civil protection agency said.

The heat, wind and difficulty in accessing some areas has complicated efforts to bring the fire under control, and a hundred people have been evacuated as a precaution.

Another forest fire, in central Estremoz, has left six people wounded, two in serious condition. 

- France: 'Recklessness' warning -

In France, 67 out of 101 departments were on heatwave alert with temperatures in the south of the country expected to again peak near 40 C.

Saturday was the hottest day in the country since the infamous heatwave of 2003, in which thousands of people died, many of them elderly people living on their own.

The emergency services complained that, despite public health warnings about keeping cool and hydrated, there was "still quite a lot of recklessness" -- citing the example of an elderly man in Lyon who suffered heart problems while mowing his lawn under the merciless afternoon sun.

Four nuclear reactors remained closed Sunday over the blazing temperatures. Power company EDF said the measures were taken to avoid temperature hikes in rivers from which water is drawn to cool the reactors.

- Italy: Tornado spotted - 

Several thunderstorms flooded streets in Sicily and Sardinia in the south of Italy on Sunday, cooling down a the heatwave that has caused traffic problems on the country's busiest summer weekend on the roads. 

Tourists on the Italian island of Pantelleria, near Tunisia, said they had seen a tornado off the coast on Saturday. 

Media had previously reported on Saturday that a woman had died from apparent heatstroke on a beach in the northwestern Liguria region.

- Germany: Rain brings relief -

Isolated showers and thunderstorms brought some relief from the heat in parts of Germany this weekend, particularly in the south. However temperatures are expected to climb again to as high as 39 C in the east on Wednesday.

Sweltering Germans have been flocking to open air swimming pools across the country, and many pools are expecting record visitor numbers this summer, DPA news agency reported.

- Britain: Hot until Tuesday -

The heat also slightly abated in Britain on Sunday, with the high of just over 30 degrees expected in the south of England, according to the Met Office, which predicted the heatwave would continue until Tuesday. 

Public Health England told those in the southeast to take stay in the shade and drink lots of water.

- Netherlands: Shortage of fries? -

While the temperature was down to a near-seasonal 25 C in the Netherlands on Sunday, the country's drought continues to wreak havoc on crops. 

Farmers are working night and day to save what they can, the Dutch broadcaster NOS reported, with potato and corn yields hit particularly hard. 

Producers have warned that a potato shortage could affect the supply of fries, a Dutch favourite.