EUROPE is set to sizzle as temperatures skyrocket across the continent with potentially fatal consequences.
In France there are fears of a repeat of the horror heatwave of 2003 which saw 15,000 more people than usual die over the summer.
Three people have already died of suspected “cold shock” in the country after diving from the baking sun into the chilly sea and suffering cardiac arrest.
One Spanish weather forecaster warned “hell is coming” in a tweet with temperatures set to peak in the mid-40s.
The highest reliable June temperature previously recorded in France was 41.5C on 21 June 2003.
The country’s highest ever temperature, recorded at two separate locations in southern France on 12 August during the same 2003 heatwave, was 44.1C.
But Guillaume Woznica, a French forecaster warned: “The latest forecasts leave little room for doubt: we are heading for a new national record.”
Météo-France is predicting peaks of 45C in the southern towns of Nîmes and Carpentras on Friday.
A bubble of Saharan air has brought scorching heat across the continent this week, with June records set to be broken in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Britain could also experience a scorcher with temperatures climbing into the low 30s over the weekend.
Tourists in Rome and Paris scaled back their sightseeing in sweltering temperatures on Tuesday, dousing themselves at fountains and cooling down with ice cream as a heatwave continued in continental Europe.
“With this hot sun we try and keep to the cooler places,” said Fari, a Spanish tourist to the Italian capital, speaking by the Trevi fountain.
“From 8 o’clock we are out looking at Rome, and from midday we eat ice cream,” he added.
The temperature had already reached 31 degrees Celsius early in the morning with high levels of humidity.
In Paris, locals and tourists stripped down to paddle in the Trocadero fountains by the Eiffel Tower.
“It’s really, really uncomfortable right now. The heat is really high, I think it’s over 35 degrees. So for us, doing a tour of two hours and a half, three hours, is really, really difficult,” said 32-year-old Argentinean tour guide to the city Ayelen Rozitchner.
French forecaster Meteo France issued an orange alert, the second highest level of weather warning, projecting highs of 34C in the French capital, and up to 39C elsewhere.
On Monday the government announced it would suspend exams sat by 14- and 15-year-olds, prompting accusations from the opposition that it was overreacting.
“This isn’t scaremongering,” Health Minister Agnes Buzyn told a news conference.
“I’m asking everyone to take responsibility for themselves, their family and their neighbours and to avoid a backlog in emergency rooms due to people taking unnecessary risks.”
The heatwave has revived memories in France of August 2003, when the searing heat overwhelmed hospitals and caused the deaths of some 15,000 people, mostly the elderly.
The government says much progress has been made since. Authorities in Paris are setting up “cool rooms” in municipal buildings, opening pools for late-night swimming and installing extra drinking fountains.
The heatwave is also affecting Spain, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium.
In Germany, meteorologist Andreas Friedrich said the German weather service had issued heat warnings based on the felt air temperature, which incorporates how people feel when they are clothed and exposed to the sun.
The service expects record felt air temperatures on Wednesday in the southwest of Germany of some 43C.