Austrians spare the horses as Europe sizzles

Cool rooms and 1,000 water stations supplied by Parisian authorities amid heatwave

 

German authorities have closed off sections of the autobahn network because asphalt has begun melting in the baking heat.

The extreme weather broke June records this week across Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.

In Berlin, Warsaw and other central European cities, cooler air brought some relief on Thursday. But the heat gripping Spain and France is expected to drift north again at the weekend.

In Austria’s Salzburg and Innsbruck, where temperatures hit 33 degrees on Thursday, local fiaker horse-drawn carriages were off the streets to spare the animals.

France declared a climate emergency on Thursday. Schools and kindergartens are expected to remain closed on Friday with record-breaking temperatures of up to 44 degrees forecast.

As well as extreme heat, Parisians are struggling with a smog alert and authorities have imposed traffic restrictions in the French capital, as well as Lyon and Strasbourg.

With memories still fresh of the 2003 summer heatwave that claimed thousands of lives, French health minister Agnès Buzyn dismissed opposition claims that the government was exaggerating the risk by opening cool rooms and more than 1,000 water stations across the capital.

‘In denial’

“The general public does not take precautions, people are often in denial, they continue to play sports,” she told Europe 1 Radio. “As long as there are dead linked to heatwaves, I think my job is to remind everyone of the provisions and make sure that everyone applies them.”

In Catalonia, firefighters battled a blaze in Torre de l’Espanyol, a municipality in the Catalan province of Tarragona. The fire – the worst in the region in 20 years – is believed to have been caused when farm manure spontaneously combusted. Authorities have warned that the fire has the potential to consume an area of 20,000 hectares or 28,000 soccer pitches

“The terrain is complicated, this generates a lot of difficulties, the weather conditions are not favourable,” David Borrell, head of the Catalan fire department, told local radio. After 350 firemen worked all Wednesday night to contain the blaze, joined by two hydroplanes on Thursday morning, he said it was “hard to be optimistic”.

As climate change experts gathered for a UN conference in Bonn, German climate researchers said European heatwaves had doubled in length, and temperatures become more extreme, between 1880 and 2005. Météo-France said the frequency of such heatwaves is expected to double by 2050.