If you’re a tourist, the last thing you want is a warning that you should stay in your hotel room. But that is precisely what is happening as a second heat wave is hitting the Mediterranean countries in the midst of what has already been a record-breaking summer.
In Italy, civil protection workers monitored crowds for people in danger of heatstroke in central Rome while Red Cross teams in Portugal took to social media to warn people of vital safety measures. In Greece, volunteers handed out drinking water, and in Spain they reminded people to protect themselves from breathing in smoke from fires.
“Heat waves are really an invisible killer,” Panu Saaristo, the emergency health team leader for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said during a Geneva briefing. “We are experiencing hotter and hotter temperatures for longer stretches of time every single summer here in Europe.”
The new heat wave in several parts of southern Europe is expected to persist for days. The U.N. weather agency said that temperatures in Europe, amplified by climate change, could break the 48.8-degree Celsius (119.8-degree Fahrenheit) record set in Sicily two years ago.
As concerns grew the extreme heat would cause a spike in deaths., civil protection volunteers distributed reusable water bottles at 28 popular spots in Rome. This tourist mecca is blessed with two-thousand-year-old fountains scattered throughout—hundreds of them just in the historic center–that still deliver cool water, and visitors and residents alike are reminded to take frequent advantage of them to stay hydrated.
Fausto Alberetto, who was visiting Rome from northern Italy’s Piedmont region on Tuesday, asked some volunteers how to use an app to find the closest “nasone.” He knew to expect Rome’s 40 C (104 F) temperatures, “But it is one thing to hear it or read it, it is another thing to feel it,″ Alberetto said as he walked near Piazza Venezia in the heart of Rome. ”Here, it is really dreadful.”
In Cyprus, health authorities confirmed that a 90-year-old man died over the weekend and six other older adults were hospitalized after all seven suffered heatstroke at home last week as temperatures surpassed 43 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit).
Heat records are being shattered all over the world, and scientists say there is a good chance that 2023 will go down as the hottest year on record, with measurements going back to the middle of the 19th century.
Temperatures above 40 C (104 F) were forecast to persist not only in the Mediterranean, but across North America, Asia and North Africa.
“These are not your normal weather systems of the past. They have arrived as a consequence of climate change,” John Nairn, senior extreme heat adviser for World Meteorological Organization, said. “It is global warming, and it’s going to continue for some time.”
Other countries are taking steps to protect the public’s help during the sweltering summer of 2023.
In Greece, authorities last week introduced changes in working hours and ordered afternoon closures of the Acropolis and other ancient sites to allow workers to cope with the high heat.
On Rhodes and Corfu, top destinations for tourists in Greece, fires burning since Wednesday forced the evacuation of 19,000 people over the weekend. “We are in the seventh day of the fire and it hasn’t been controlled,” Rhodes Deputy Mayor Konstantinos Taraslias told state broadcaster ERT.
Tourists spent the night on the airport floor, waiting for repatriation flights, the first of which came overnight.
Three large wildfires burned outside Athens for a second day. Thousands of people evacuated from coastal areas south of the capital returned to their homes Tuesday when a fire finally receded after they spent the night on beaches, hotels and public facilities.
Most of Spain is under alert for high to extreme heat with forecasts calling for peak temperatures of 43 C (109 F) in areas along the Ebro River in the northeast and on the island of Mallorca. Spain is also dealing with a prolonged drought that has increased concerns about the risk of wildfires.
In Switzerland, some 150 firefighters, police, troops and other emergency teams backed by helicopters were fighting a wildfire that engulfed a mountainside in the southwestern Wallis region, evacuating residents of four villages and hamlets in the area.