Heatwave 'Lucifer' scorches Europe

Authorities advising people stay indoors and drink plenty of water

Europe's soaring temperatures picture: WeatherOnline
Europe's soaring temperatures picture: WeatherOnline

People are being advised to stay in the shade and drink plenty of water as soaring temperatures in southern and eastern Europe continue to cause havoc, triggering weather warning alerts, sparking forest fires and damaging crops.

The local Meteorological Office has issued a weather warning for today, and Malta is not alone.

With temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius expected to continue into next week, the heatwave dubbed “Lucifer” has affected countries as far north as Poland, but is being felt the most in Italy and the Balkans. European weather hub Meteoalarm has issued its top “red” warning for 10 countries.

The sweltering temperatures have caused a handful of deaths with many more people requiring hospitalisation to receive treatment for sunstroke or other heat-related problems.

Albania was forced to ask the EU for emergency assistance to combat some 75 forest fires caused by the extreme weather. Firefighters were also reportedly being kept busy in Italy, Spain Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Croatia, where authorities are advising people to stay indoors and keep themselves hydrated.
In Greece, the seaside town of Kalyvia, south of Athens, had to be evacuated as a wildfires threatened homes in high winds.

Some Italian vineyards are reportedly gathering their grape harvest weeks in advance of the usual date because of the heat. Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement, wrote in La Stampa newspaper that this was the first time in living memory that the grape harvest had ever started before August 15.

The heatwave has caused a 15 per cent increase in hospital emergency admissions in Italy with 26 major towns and cities on the health ministry’s maximum heat alert.

26 Italian cities, including Venice and Rome have been issued weather risk warnings by the Italian authorities. In Florence the ‘perceived temperature’ which is determined by temperature, humidity and wind and has been reported at more than 50C. In Abruzzo a 79-year-old woman was found dead in a field next to her home after flames engulfed two hectares of the surrounding farmland. A major coastal motorway north of Rome had was closed for several hours due to a major fire near Grosseto in Tuscany.

On Croatia’s Adriatic coast, temperatures already stood at around 32 degrees early on Friday morning and were expected climb to 42 degrees during the day, the weather service said.

“In two hours of my shift today I saw four people fainting on the street and complaining of heat exhaustion,” a traffic warden, who identified himself as Goran, told Reuters in the Serbian capital, Belgrade.