The Heat Is Online

Fatalities Mount from European Heat Wave

Europe bakes in summer heatwave, July 25, 2007


South-eastern Europe is sweltering as a heatwave continues, with fears of further power cuts and forest fires.


The mercury is tipped to hit 40C in Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia, but temperatures have eased slightly in many areas affected by the heat.


Greece's electricity grid is close to breaking point as demand soars

and searing temperatures evaporate rivers used to create hydro-electric power.


Up to 500 people have died in the heat in Hungary and 30 in Romania


Scramble for power


On Tuesday, one person died in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as houses were destroyed in a blaze near Bitola, the country's second-largest city. President Branko Crvenkovski declared a national emergency and called in army units to help battle the fires.


Conditions there also hit Albania, which was left without power

because of a faulty transmission line bringing electricity from Macedonia. There were also blackouts in Greece, Kosovo and Montenegro.


Authorities in Greece are hoping to avoid a repeat of Tuesday's blackouts, urging consumers not to crank up their air conditioners and sending civil servants home early to curb energy usage.


It has also been trying to import electricity from neighbouring countries, but regional power shortages have hampered these efforts, says the BBC's Malcolm Brabant in Athens.


Forests in Greece are now under 24-hour watch and more than 1,000 extra firefighters were sent to the north and west of the country as fires continued to burn on Tuesday.


Two pilots were buried with full military honours after their fire-fighting aircraft crashed during water-bombing operations on the Greek island of Evia.


One man died on the island of Corfu on Monday, probably of heat stroke, health officials said.


In Hungary, up to 500 people have died from heatstroke, cardiovascular problems and other illnesses aggravated by the heat in the past week, said Anna Paldy, deputy director of the National Institute of Environmental Health.


In Belgrade, construction sites are falling silent after the Serbian government ordered all outdoor work to stop at 1100 to help workers avoid exposure to the afternoon heat.


Serbia's agriculture ministry says 30% of the country's annual harvest has been destroyed because of the heat, with the wheat, soya and vegetable crops worst hit.


Meanwhile, parts of northern Europe have seen vast floods and heavy rainfall, sparking fears that climate change may be to blame for the extreme weather.


Six mountain climbers died in three separate incidents when temperatures in the Alps plunged from 10C (50F) to -15C (5F) on Tuesday, Italian and French officials said.



Heat wave kills 27 in Romania


Hundreds have collapsed over past week; Greece, Bulgaria also on alert


MSNBC News Services, July 24, 2007


BUCHAREST, Romania - Twelve elderly people died in a single day during a heat wave that has hit Romania in the past week, bringing the total of heat-related deaths to 27, the health minister said Tuesday.


Minister Eugen Nicolaescu said that the deaths on Monday were all people aged over 70 who collapsed in the street and had not taken precautions, such as wearing a hat to protect from the sun. He did not provide further details.


On Monday and early Tuesday there were power outages throughout the capital due to an overload of the system caused by people using air conditioning. Finance Minister Varujan Vosganian said energy consumption had surged by more than 50 percent.


Some 870 people collapsed in the street on Monday due to heat-related causes and almost 19,000 people rang the emergency services, almost a fifth more than on Sunday, Nicolaescu told reporters.


Five counties in southern Romania, including the capital Bucharest, were on high alert Tuesday. Authorities urged residents not to venture outside in the middle of the day and state institutions were closed midmorning and due to reopen in the evening. Employers were providing free water and reducing work schedules.


Lower temps on Thursday

Temperatures are set to hover around 104 Fahrenheit in the south and east Wednesday but will drop Thursday, forecasters said.

In Bucharest and other cities, tents were set up offering water and first aid.


There were power outages throughout the capital, including at government headquarters, due to heavy use of air conditioning.

Interior Minister Cristian David issued warnings for 20 of Romania's 42 counties, and forestry officials were on alert for possible fires.

Drought was also affecting much of the country. In southern Romania, many wells dried up, leaving residents without water. Authorities sent workers to dozens of villages to dig new, deeper wells.


The heat wave also claimed at least three lives in Austria last week.


Heat precautions in Greece

In Greece, the Health Ministry activated an emergency plan to deal with possible mass hospitalizations and power outages as a second heat wave this month was expected.


"We have been on full alert since Friday, increasing the number of staff on duty," said Dimitris Pirros, national first aid center spokesman.


A heatwave in 1987 caused hundreds of deaths in the Greek capital and authorities have since taken steps to protect the most vulnerable and elderly.


"A second heat wave in a month is certainly something rare," said the head of the national weather service, Dimitris Ziakopoulos. "Temperatures will start falling on Thursday."


In Bulgaria, meanwhile, dozens of forest fires raged across the country, causing the death of one man, and meteorologists said the weather was the country's hottest in 120 years of recordkeeping.


Authorities in the southern town of Stara Zagora summoned the army and a special Russian aircraft to help put out some 20 fires that threatened the town and neighboring villages.


The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.