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Europe heatwave: Airport runways melt amid hottest day of the year in UK

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By Euronews  with AP
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A matrix sign over the A19 road towards Teesside displays an extreme weather advisory as the UK braces for the upcoming heatwave, in England, Saturday July 16, 2022.
A matrix sign over the A19 road towards Teesside displays an extreme weather advisory as the UK braces for the upcoming heatwave, in England, Saturday July 16, 2022.   -   Copyright  Owen Humphreys/pa media

Airport runways in the UK partially melted as the country grappled with an unprecedented heatwave, which saw temperatures soaring above 38°C on Monday.

London Luton airport was temporarily shut off to flights Monday afternoon due to a runway defect caused by the record yearly temperatures. 

Easyjet and Ryanair flights destined for Luton were diverted to alternative airports such as Stansted. On one flight from Catania in Sicily, passengers were told by the captain mid-air that they could not land at Luton because parts of the runway had effectively melted.

Luton announced that flights resumed at 17:40 BST, with inbound resuming 15 minutes later. 

Flights were also halted at the RAF's Brize Norton airfield in Oxfordshire due to temperature-induced problems on the runway. 

'Hotter than the Sahara'

In the UK, certain schools and transport links were closed Monday, as the Met Office issued its first-ever "red" warning for extreme heat, cautioning there was a "risk to life".

It said Monday is the hottest day of 2022 so far after the mercury hit 38.1°C in Santon Downham, Suffolk.

The office warned that temperatures could exceed +40°C for the first time since records began on Tuesday, posing a risk of serious illness and even death among healthy people.

Schools in some counties of England, such as in Nottinghamshire and Hampshire, were shut Monday and will remain closed tomorrow, while the train between London King's Cross and the cities of York and Leeds (north) will not run for a good part of the day on Tuesday.

Several railway companies called on the population not to travel Monday as the British rail network is not designed for such heat, and said to expect further major transport disruption.

The Met Office say provisional figures show the highest temperature on record in Wales has now risen to 37.1 C in Hawarden in Flintshire.

The record stood for 32 years and then tumbled twice in a matter of hours.

The British record high temperature is +38.7°C recorded in Cambridge in 2019.

Care homes have also been urged to take steps to protect vulnerable and older residents who are particularly at risk from high temperatures. 

Heatwave plan in France

The town hall of Paris announced Monday it would keep parks open until midnight, create cooled rooms for the public and check in on vulnerable people, as temperatures may approach 40°C on Tuesday. 

Most of the French capital's parks - Monceau, Montsouris, Georges-Brassens, André-Citroën, Buttes-Chaumont - will remain open until midnight, while three schoolyards and "refreshed rooms" will be publically accessible Monday and Tuesday evening. 

The approximately 10,000 vulnerable people registered in Paris will be contacted by telephone to assess their state of health, said the town hall, which is mobilising doctors and volunteers for the occasion.

Besides the 1,200 fountains already in Paris, around fifty misters and 35 prototype fountains offering drinking and sprinkling have been deployed. These are temporarily connected to the fire hydrants.

Elsewhere in France, the Météo-France has extended its red heatwave alert to more than a dozen departments, warning of "hazardous conditions of exceptional intensity."

"Fifteen departments on the Atlantic coast are placed on heatwave red alert. Orange heatwave vigilance is extended to the north and centre of the country to a total of 51 departments," Météo-France wrote in its Monday morning bulletin. 

"The heat increases, and the heatwave spreads over the country," it added.

Europe's extreme heat is being accompanied by a wildfire crisis that has prompted thousands to evacuate parts of France, Spain and Portugal.

Some 8,000 people are also being "preventively evacuated" on Monday from two districts of France's La Teste-de-Buch (south-west), a town in the popular Arcachon basin, which has been affected by a huge fire for several days, on the edge of the Atlantic. 

More than 1,500 firefighters and water-bombing planes are trying to douse the flames in the region’s tinder-dry pine forests.

AP Photo / Emilio Morenatti
Family takes precautions against the heatAP Photo / Emilio Morenatti

Seville begins to name heatwave phenomenons

Spain has also been gripped by a suffocating heat wave for more than a week, causing numerous fires that have ravaged tens of thousands of hectares of land across the country.

In Spain, there have been 360 deaths attributed to heat in recent weeks with temperatures hitting +46°C, while in Portugal as many as 659 have died over the past week as temperatures soared to +47°C.

On Monday, almost all of Spain remained on "extreme risk" fire alert.

The southern Spanish city of Seville has become the first city in the world to names and categorise heatwaves in an effort to raise awareness of the health hazards caused by extreme heat and the precautions citizens should take.

Experts behind the project, called proMETEO Sevilla, ultimately hope that by naming the most severe heatwaves they will save lives.

The Netherlands recorded its hottest day of the year so far on Monday, with temperatures reaching at least 33.6 °C in the southwestern town of Westdorpe. 

Meanwhile, Belgium fears heat records on Tuesday, with its Royal Institute of Meteorology (IRM) forecasting that the thermometer can climb in places up to 40 °C. 

Plans have also been made for certain industries where workers are exposed to heat.

In Norway, the Meteorological Institute expects temperatures to exceed 30°C in the coming days in the country's south. However, the national record of 35.6°C recorded in 1970 should not be beaten.

'Climate change kills'

Climate experts warn that global warming has increased the frequency of extreme weather events, with studies showing that the likelihood of temperatures in the UK reaching +40°C is now 10 times higher than in the pre-industrial era.

Drought and heat waves tied to climate change have also made wildfires harder to fight.

"Climate change kills people (...) but also our ecosystem, our biodiversity", said the president of the Spanish government Pedro Sanchez on Monday.