Local temperature records were broken in countries across Europe as a heatwave hit several countries including France, Portugal and Spain.
Temperatures built to around 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) Friday in many inland areas of Portugal, and were expected to peak at 47 C (116.6 F) in some places Saturday. Large sections of Portugal are on red alert on the Civil Protection Agency’s danger scale.
Portugal’s highest recorded temperature was 47.4 C (117.3 F) in 2003. Emergency services have issued a red alert through Sunday, placing extra services such as medical staff and firefighters on standby.
Temperatures were being driven higher across the Iberian peninsula by a hot air mass moving northward from Africa, which is also bringing dust from the Sahara Desert, meteorologists said. The dust gave the sky a dark yellow hue in some places.
In Spain, heat warnings were also issued for 41 of the country’s 50 provinces as temperatures were expected to reach up to 44 C (111.2 F). Spain’s highest recorded temperature is 46.9 C (116.42 F) in Cordoba, a southern city, in July 2017.
In northern Europe, Sweden was still under threat from wildfires, which in recent weeks have extended into the Arctic Circle.
Sweden’s Civil Contingencies Agency warned of “a high risk” for wildfires in central and southern Sweden this weekend because of the continuing dry weather and strong winds.
And over in Britain, an unusually long, torrid summer has taken its toll on the country’s flowers. The supermarket chain Morrisons has begun selling “wonky” flowers that have not developed properly.
The U.K.’s Met Office weather service says July was the country’s third-warmest month in more than a century.
In Moscow, as temperatures rose to close to 30 C (86 F), city authorities announced they were opening hundreds of “cool rooms” where residents could rest amid air conditioning, with water dispensers and medical attendants.
Although that temperature is far below the blazing heat hitting southern Europe, it’s well above the Russian capital’s average August maximum of 23 C (73 F).
France struggles with heatwave
Meanwhile, the French energy company EDF says it has halted a fourth nuclear reactor, this time one at the country’s oldest nuclear plant at Fessenheim in eastern France.
In a statement, EDT said the Fessenheim nuclear reactor was temporarily shut down Saturday.
Since Thursday, four French nuclear reactors in three power plants near the Rhine and the Rhone Rivers, including Fessenheim, have had to be temporarily shut down. EDF said the decision was made to avoid overheating the rivers.
Nuclear power plants use water from the rivers to cool down the temperatures of their reactors before sending the water back into the rivers. Rivers that are unusually warm can experience mass fish die-offs, which has happened in Germany in the past week.
Also, a fire in northeastern Spain on the French border forced authorities to shut a highway linking the two countries for several hours on Saturday at the height of a heatwave, firefighters said.
“We’re working together with French firefighters on a fire at la Jonquera,” they said on Twitter.
The firefighters in Catalonia said they were aided by six water-dropping planes and helicopters.
The fire comes as France experiences the summer’s busiest day on the roads, as July holiday-makers return home and those who vacation in August depart.