A fierce heatwave in western Europe has left much of the continent wilting under a scorching sun, feeding ferocious wildfires and threatening to smash more temperature records on Tuesday.
In Britain, forecasters said the current national record of 38.7 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit) could be broken and 40C breached for the first time, with experts blaming climate change and predicting more frequent extreme weather to come.
On Monday the 38.1C recorded in Suffolk, in eastern England, made it the hottest day of the year and the third-hottest day on record.
Across the Channel in France, a host of towns and cities recorded their highest-ever temperatures on Monday, the national weather office said.
The mercury hit 39.3C in Brest on the Atlantic coast of Brittany, in the far northwest of the country, smashing a previous record of 35.1C from 2002.
Saint-Brieuc, on the Channel coast, hit 39.5C beating a previous record of 38.1C, and the western city of Nantes recorded 42C, beating a decades-old high of 40.3C, set in 1949.
Firefighters in France’s southwest were still struggling in the crushing heat to contain two massive fires that have caused widespread destruction.
For nearly a week now, armies of firefighters and a fleet of waterbombing aircraft have battled blazes that have mobilised much of France’s firefighting capacity.
Ireland saw temperatures of 33C in Dublin — the highest since 1887 — while in the Netherlands, temperatures reached 35.4C in the southern city of Westdorpe. Although that was not a record, higher temperatures are expected there on Tuesday.
Neighbouring Belgium also expected temperatures of 40C and over.
The European heatwave is the second to engulf parts of the southwest of the continent in recent weeks.
European Commission researchers, meanwhile, said nearly half (46 percent) of EU territory was exposed to warning-level drought. Eleven percent was at an alert level, and crops were already suffering from lack of water.
Blazes in France, Greece, Portugal and Spain have destroyed thousands of hectares of land.