Europeans braced Thursday for the expected peak of a sweltering heatwave that has sent temperatures soaring above 40oCelsius (104 Fahrenheit), with schools in France closing and wildfires in Spain spinning out of control.
Governments warned citizens to take extra precautions, with the high temperatures also causing a build-up of pollution, and emergency calls to hospitals increased. Exceptional for arriving so early in summer, the heatwave will on Thursday and Friday likely send thermometers above 40oC in France, Spain and Greece.
A forest fire in Torre del Espanol in Spain's northeastern Catalonia region raged out of control, devouring land despite the efforts of hundreds of firefighters who worked through the night.
French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said people had to be prepared for the peak of the heatwave and expressed irritation that some appeared not to be taking the advice on board.
Possible all-time high
The average maximum temperature recorded Wednesday in France of 34.9oC was already a record for the month of June, said state weather forecaster Meteo France. Even higher temperatures are expected on Friday, where areas in the south could see peaks of 42 to 44oC.
Meteo France said France's all-time record could be broken; an August 12, 2003 reading of 44.1oC in Saint-Christol-les-Ales and Conqueyrac in the southern Gard region.