Europe’s heatwave burns on, but eases from record highs

An athlete tries to cool down as he competes in the Ironman triathlon European Championships in Frankfurt, Germany, June 30, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

PARIS/MADRID (Reuters) – A four-day heatwave across western Europe that killed seven people began to ease slightly on Sunday, as temperature alerts were cut back and wildfires slowly brought under control.

Most of the fires that had broken out Spain in recent days were stabilized, but firefighters were struggling to control a blaze in the central provinces of Toledo and Madrid that had burned more than 20 sq km (8 sq miles) since Friday.

In the northeastern town of La Almunia de Dona Godina, the temperature hit a scorching 42.4 Celsius (108.3 Fahrenheit). But five of Spain’s 50 provinces were downgraded from “extreme” weather risk, leaving just two at the highest level, with 31 on weather alert.

In France, which experienced a national record of 45.9 Celsius (114.6 Fahrenheit) in the south on Friday, temperatures were set to fall gradually.

In Paris, a ban imposed on older cars to counter heat-related pollution was likely to be lifted on Monday, authorities said.

Nevertheless, some 25 out of around 90 French administrative departments have restricted water use, not least for farmers.

Jerome Despey, a wine producer in France’s southwestern Herault region, tweeted photos of shrivelled grapes, and complained of “widespread damage”.

Meteorologists say a weakening of the high-level jet stream is increasingly causing weather systems to stall and leading summer temperatures to soar. Five of Europe’s hottest summers in the last 500 years have happened in this century.

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