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Record temperatures expected as heatwave sweeps across southern Europe

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By Cameron Hill
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A vendor of a stall in the Rastro flea market tries to cool himself by pouring water over his body during a heatwave in Madrid
A vendor of a stall in the Rastro flea market tries to cool himself by pouring water over his body during a heatwave in Madrid   -   Copyright  Andrea Comas/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Scorching heat sent Europeans across the continent scrambling for shade and water as an unusually early heatwave spread across several countries.

Temperatures blew past historical records for this time of the year, hitting over 40°C in some places.

The heatwave is set to continue to spread over the weekend, with temperatures higher than 30°C expected in most of Western and Central Europe.

Meteorologists say these temperatures are normally recorded in July and August.

French climate scientists say this the earliest heatwave France has seen since 1947, believing it is a direct consequence of climate change.

“Heat waves are starting earlier,” says Clare Nullis, Clare Nullis, a spokesperson for the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva. 

“They’re becoming more frequent and more severe because of concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which are at record level. What we’re witnessing today is, unfortunately, a foretaste of the future.”

The heat could even be deadly. The French government is particularly concerned about the elderly, putting the authorities are on "red vigilance" alert, the highest level of the national heat wave plan.

Authorities in the Gironde department near Bordeaux have already cancelled concerts and other large gatherings in anticipation of dangerously high temperatures this weekend.

Spain, France, Italy... in all these places the recipe is the same to withstand the heat.

Added to the heat is the severe drought in northern Italy, where it has hardly rained in the last three and a half months. The Po river, the largest in the country, is three metres lower on average and is turning into an expanse of sand.