Euro heatwave prompts fires, power cuts

A heatwave is battering Europe, with Spain, France and Italy all affected.
A heatwave is battering Europe, with Spain, France and Italy all affected.

Hundreds of firefighters have battled to contain wildfires in southern France as a stifling heatwave brought record-breaking temperatures to parts of Europe, killing at least three people in Italy.

In the Gard region, where France's highest temperature on record was registered on Friday at 45.9C, scores of fires burned some 600 hectares of land and destroyed several houses and vehicles.

More than 700 firefighters and 10 aircraft were mobilised to tackle the fires in the Gard, some of which caused sections of motorways to be temporarily closed. Several firefighters were hurt but no serious injuries were reported.

A man was reportedly arrested for deliberately starting fires in one Gard village.

The extreme heat was expected to ease on Saturday in southern France but highs were still forecast at close to 40C.

Further north, Paris was due to experience its hottest day of the heatwave so far with a predicted high of 37C, with authorities maintaining a ban on driving older cars to curb heatwave-related pollution.

The World Meteorological Organisation said 2019 was on track to be among the world's hottest years, and 2015-2019 the hottest five-year period on record.

It said the European heatwave was "absolutely consistent" with extremes linked to the impact of greenhouse gas emissions.

Britain could see its hottest day of the year so far on Saturday, with temperatures expected to reach up to 35C.

For a fourth consecutive day, unusually high temperatures above 43C were forecast on Saturday across Spain, with 40 of Spain's 50 regions placed under weather alert, including seven at extreme risk.

Firefighters managed to contain 90 per cent of the wildfires that raged across 60 sq km of land in the northeastern Tarragona province, the Catalan government said on Saturday. Two other wildfires in the central Toledo region were still burning, officials said.

The heat killed at least three people as temperatures soared in central and northern Italy, while hospitals in financial capital Milan saw a 35 per cent rise in emergency visits due to heat-related conditions.

Australian Associated Press