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Italy braces for 39°C temperatures as heatwave in southern Europe causes mounting safety concerns

Children enjoy the drizzle from a public fountain before sunset in Bucharest, Romania, Thursday, June 20, 2024
Children enjoy the drizzle from a public fountain before sunset in Bucharest, Romania, Thursday, June 20, 2024 Copyright AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda
Copyright AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda
By Euronews with AP
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Intense heat continues to scorch southern Europe this week - with health officials warning people to stay sheltered and hydrated.


Winds from North Africa are pushing up the temperatures in southern Europe, including Italy and Balkan countries. 

Eight cities in Italy were issued heat warnings, with temperatures of more than 39C anticipated in some parts of the country.  

Last week, Greek authorities were forced to shut down the Acropolis in Athens as temperatures exceeded 40 degrees in much of central and southern Greece, while temperatures along the Turkish coast were 12 degrees higher than usual for the season.

The risk of heatwaves at the Paris Olympic Games has left organisers sweating about the safety of athletes, and cities across the continent are making adaptations to cope with extreme heat.

Researchers are examining the impacts of extreme heat on the body

Very high temperatures and humidity can cause the human body to break down over a prolonged period. With Europe experiencing soaring temperatures, researchers are recreating heat and humidity artificially in tanks to see how our organs could fail. 

At the University of Roehampton in London, Professor Lewis Halsey is researching what happens to the human body when it suffers from heat exhaustion

He says people will respond differently according to age, fitness and whether they have any health complications.  

“Human beings are incredibly good sweaters, we’re some of the best sweaters in the animal kingdom,” he says.

“But if there’s too much water in the air already, the water, the sweat has nowhere to go and it just runs off our body to the floor.” 

“If [the temperature] goes above 40 degrees, then we’re entering a risk zone,” he adds. “The organs can start to fail or at least start to work less optimally. The reason for this can be what’s called protein denaturation. So, their shape changes and some of them start to pull apart.”  

The heat gripping parts of the continent is forcing the elderly to stay in their homes. Parents are desperately trying to cool children - who have not yet developed the ability to regulate their body temperatures. Doctors say these groups are the most vulnerable. 

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