Italian authorities have issued an “extreme” health risk for 16 cities including Rome and Florence this weekend as a heat wave that is baking Europe threatens to bring record temperatures.
Climate scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA) say temperatures could reach 48 degrees Celsius (118.4 degrees Fahrenheit) on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, “potentially the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Europe.”
Rome could get as hot as 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit).
Italian authorities have issued the second-highest heat warning to nine other cities. The country’s health ministry is advising the public to stay hydrated, eat lighter meals and avoid direct sunlight between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.
The ESA warned that Europe’s heat wave has only just begun with Spain, France, Germany and Poland expected to see extreme weather, just as the continent welcomes what is expected to be a record-breaking number of tourists coming for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic.
Greece shut the Acropolis of Athens for a second straight day Saturday amid fierce temperatures. Local police helped a tourist who got into difficulty on Friday.
There is particular concern over those working outdoors after a 44-year-old construction worker in Italy died after collapsing on a roadside earlier in the week.
Authorities in Spain warned the heat wave is not just hitting the usual frying pan areas in the south, but also affecting the country’s typically cooler north.
In the south, temperatures in the cities of Seville, Cordoba and Granada have reached 40 degrees Celsius, or 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spain’s national weather service says it’s also sizzling on Spain’s resort island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean Sea with highs of 36 degrees Celsius, or 97 degrees Fahrenheit.
Meanwhile, even the normally mild region of Navarra in the north is seeing up to 40 degrees Celsius.
A wildfire that broke out on La Palma Island in Spain’s Canary Islands burned several homes and forced the evacuation of 500 people, the Canary Islands regional government tweeted Saturday morning.
Heat is one of the deadliest natural hazards – more than 61,000 people died in Europe’s searing summer heat wave last year.
The current heat wave – named “Cerberus” by the Italian Meteorological Society after the three-headed monster that features in Dante’s “Inferno” – has prompted further fears for people’s health, especially as it coincides with one of the busiest periods of Europe’s summer tourist season.
Europe is not the only place facing extreme temperatures. A dangerous weekslong heat wave in parts of the western United States is set to worsen this weekend, with more than 90 million people under heat alerts.
The extreme weather is even taking affect as far afield as Australia, with Sydney experiencing unseasonably warm weather for its winter months, according to the country’s Bureau of Meteorology.