Blistering heat wave in Europe leaves 25 dead, melts roads
The Boston Globe, July 7, 2000ATHENS - A heat wave in southeastern Europe sent temperatures rocketing to 113 degrees in some places yesterday, leaving 25 people dead, melting roads in Turkey, and driving hundreds to seek medical help.
Firefighters battled hundreds of blazes sparked by arid conditions in Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, and Romania. In Turkey, the heat killed 5,200 chickens and led camel drivers to wet down their animals.
In Athens, sweltering residents snapped up air conditioners and set a record for electric consumption. ''This is the hottest July 6 for some 60 years,'' said Turkish meteorologist Seyfullah Celik.
Meteorologists say a high pressure area that has held over the southeast of the continent since the beginning of the week has driven temperatures to record levels. Average daytime temperatures for much of the Balkans normally swing from about 86 to 95 degrees in summer.
The high pressure has trapped hot air masses flowing up from the Sahara desert and the Middle East. Southwestern Iran, for example, had a reported high of 120 degrees. A colder front in central Europe has so far been unable to push through the barrier in the northern Balkans.
''It looks like the situation of Greece, south and east Turkey and also for Cyprus will see high temperatures continuing until the end of the next week. They will be high in the rest of the Balkans,'' Greek meteorologist Theodoros Kolidas said.
The problem has been compounded by high temperatures overnight. In Zagreb, the Croatian capital, it was nearly 88 degrees at midnight Tuesday.
Some Croatian counties proclaimed a state of natural disaster because of drought, which is predicted to reduce harvest by as much as 70 percent.
There was concern the death toll could climb as health authorities in Croatia tried to determine if heat was responsible for about 40 deaths. An official said it was too early to say if many fatal heart attacks could be attributed to the heat.
In Kosovo, the NATO-led peacekeeping command ordered soldiers to drink more water, take salt tablets, and take other precautions.
This story ran on page A10 of the Boston Globe on 7/7/2000.
Heat eases slightly in Europe
Friday brought a brief respite from the agonizing heat which has gripped southeastern Europe for the past week, resulting in at least 38 deaths.
Temperatures, which earlier in the week reached as high as 113 degrees in Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Turkey and Romania, finally eased by several degrees.
Average daytime temperatures in the Balkans usually range between 86 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months, but an area of high pressure has trapped hot air flowing from the Sahara desert and the Middle East, sending temperatures soaring above 100 degrees.
In Romania, nine farmers died while working in the fields in 109-degree temperatures. Eight heat-related deaths were reported in Bulgaria, four in Greece, and one each in Macedonia and Bosnia. As many as 40 people in Croatia have died, but an official said it is yet to be determined whether the deaths were caused by the heat.
Hospitals around the region reported treating hundreds of patients for heat-related ailments, including respiratory conditions, heatstroke and heart problems.
"We're barely managing to cover all the calls," said Zeljko Skukan, a doctor at an emergency ward in Zagreb, Croatia. "Our people are literally running from one address to another. Most of the calls are coming from people with heart problems, but there are many young people too."
In northern Romania, the country's nuclear power plant was shut down after the heat reached 158 degrees (Fahrenheit) inside the building. Nobody was injured and the plant was not damaged, according to a plant statement issued Friday.
Dry, arid conditions are also being blamed for hundreds of wildfires in Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy and Romania. More than 100 forest and brush fires were fanned by dry winds in Greece. The largest fire consumed an estimated 4,000 acres of forest on the Aegean island of Samos.
Some Croatian counties have declared a state of natural disaster, saying their crops will be 40 to 70 percent less productive than last year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Heat wave scorches southeastern Europe, kills four
ATHENS - Italy and the Balkans sizzled yesterday as a heat wave from the Sahara desert scorched a path through the region - killing four people, sending hundreds to hospital and damaging crops.
Temperatures in Bucharest, Sofia and Belgrade hit record highs, and on the Italian island of Sardinia the thermometer touched 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).
Four people died from the heat in Bulgaria and emergency medical services across the region reported increased calls for help, with hundreds of people rushed to hospital with respiratory, heart and heatstroke problems.
The baking heat also scorched crops - yet more bad news for the region's farmers who are still reeling from a winter drought.
"The heat wave is compounding a winter drought and is scorching crops, creating great difficulties for farmers," said Nunzio Primavera of Italy's biggest farmers' group Coldiretti.
"It is much hotter than normal for this time of year."
Farmers are now collecting soft and durum wheat in central and southern regions, including Sardinia and Sicily. Harvesting began early this year because of the hot weather.
Olive trees, wine groves and citrus, which are harvested later in the year, will be damaged unless it rains soon, Primavera said. Italian sugar beet yields could be cut by some 10 percent this year due to the heat.
In Romania, which is suffering its worst drought in 100 years, some 3.4 million hectares of various crops would suffer damage worth up to $340 million, officials said.
In Athens, temperatures soared to 43 degrees Celsius, sending tens of thousands of people to the beaches and forcing tourists to cool off in city fountains.
"Warm air masses from the Sahara are rising very high and travelling north," said Haris Kabetzidis of the Greek weather service, which has forecast that temperatures will not drop substantially before next week.
"I didn't expect it to be this hot," said Horkun Evenson, a tourist from Norway. "I will be leaving tomorrow and I will be glad to get back to my 11 degrees in Norway."
Firefighters battled several forest blazes across Italy - from Rome to Sardinia - and two in the southern Greek Peloponnese peninsula.
Dozens of people were hospitalised with breathing difficulties after inhaling smoke from a fire in the Castelfusano pine forest near the picturesque Ostia area on Tuesday.
Greece recorded its highest ever consumption of electricity, with shops reporting record sales of air conditioners. The public power corporation DEH said brief blackouts in Athens suburbs were due to the over-burdening of its network.
Melting road asphalt forced Bulgaria to ban heavy trucks from travelling during the hottest hours and Romania ordered trains to stop or slow down for fear they would be derailed because of the unusual heat.
Story by Dina Kyriakidou
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
8 deaths tied to heat wave in southeastern Europe
The Boston Globe, Associated Press, July 6, 2000ATHENS - A ''thermal invasion'' from the Sahara desert has created a scorching heat wave in southeast Europe, breaking century-old records, meteorologists said yesterday, and claiming at least eight lives across the region.
Temperatures reached as high as 111 degrees in Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, and Italy yesterday, officials said, and many regions were bracing for even hotter weather today.
The average temperature for much of the Balkans at this time of year varies between 86 degrees and 95 degrees.
In Romania, hospitals were overcrowded with patients who suffered heart attacks, heat-related shock or fainting spells. The health ministry said ''many deaths'' occurred nationwide.
As temperatures hit 107 degrees, the Romanian government told employees to stay home because many offices lack air conditioning.
The heat and dry conditions sparked a rash of fires; Romanian firefighters fought 136 blazes over the past 24 hours. Two people died and 26 others were injured.
In neighboring Bulgaria, temperatures hit their highest mark in 112 years, reaching 104 degrees in the capital of Sofia. The heat has so far killed four elderly people suffering from heart conditions and high blood pressure, Bulgarian health officials reported, and at least 50 people were hospitalized.
Meteorologists blame the heat on hot air masses moving north from Africa.
''We have the maximum of heat masses from the Sahara Desert in Africa,'' said Greek meteorologist Nikos Kanderes. ''The thermal invasion reached up to the northern Balkans.'' Kanderes said a cooler air mass from central Europe may not break through until Tuesday.
In Turkey, temperatures soared to 104 degrees in places, but meteorologists predicted the real heat wave would hit today.
In Macedonia, the thermometer in the capital Skopje showed 111 degrees, while hot winds blowing across the plains outside the city forced residents indoors.
In the Yugoslav province of Kosovo, temperatures soared to 108 degrees despite brisk winds that provided little relief and filled the air in the capital Pristina with dust and debris. In Belgrade, the Yugoslav capital, the pro-government Politika daily said Tuesday was the hottest July 4 in 114 years, reaching 110 degrees.
This story ran on page A17 of the Boston Globe on 7/6/2000.