Heatwave torments Western Europe

More than a dozen Italian cities were put on alert as heatwave gripped Europe in the last days. While Spain experienced record temperatures, a fire destroyed a vast area of a forest in southwest France and people in Britain filled beaches to look for coolness and escape the country's hottest day of the year so far.

The Spanish city of San Sebastian on the northern coast recorded a temperature of 42C on Thursday. It was the hottest temperature there since records began in 1955, the country's national weather agency Aemet said. The city of Palma, on Spain's Mediterranean island of Majorca, set a local record of 40.6C.

Temperatures peaked at around 40C in many parts of Italy, where 14 cities were put on alert. Heatwaves were reported in several major northern cities including Rome, Bologna, Florence, Turin, and Verona. Tourists and local residents in Rome tried to escape the heat by sheltering under trees, cooling down at public fountains or having ice creams. Italian weather forecasters say the heatwave is coming from Africa.

A fire ravaged more than 150 hectares of a pine forest in southwest France on Thursday evening, forcing people to evacuate many homes. The fire broke out at the Chiberta forest, in the centre of the Anglet in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques region, and was brought under control on Friday. No casualties were reported but around 100 people were evacuated from the area.

People across the UK sought the shade as temperatures rose above 37C on Friday. The Met Office said a reading of 37.8C, was recorded at Heathrow Airport in west London. It made Friday the hottest day of 2020 and the third-hottest on record. Previous bouts of hot weather have seen people pack beaches around the British coast, though they have not always observed social distancing measures intended to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

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