Hundreds die in heatwave

Hundreds die in heatwave

26 July 2007

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HUNGARY says as many as 500 people may have died in the past week in a heatwave still stifling much of southern and eastern Europe.

Searing temperatures across the region have claimed scores of lives and have also sparked deadly bushfires.

In southern Italy, a bushfire last Tuesday burned two people alive in their car and suffocated another pair on a beach nearby.

Meanwhile Britain was still struggling to cope with its worst flooding in 60 years.

Some towns had become islands, and hundreds of thousands of homes were without power or running water.

In the Balkans, authorities warned people to stay indoors to avoid the extreme heat that has killed 30 people in Romania and two in Bulgaria and Greece.

Another two deaths were reported in Croatia.

Regional temperatures were commonly above 40C: Greece experienced 45C on Tuesday and Wednesday, worsened by high humidity and air pollution; Italy had a high of 44C.

Its capital, Rome, recorded one of its warmest nights ever last Monday: 27.1C.

Bulgaria sweltered in its hottest temperatures since records began.

The mercury shot above 45C in some areas. More than 860 people were reported to have fainted in Romania’s streets.

The heat also fanned several fires. One of the most serious raged near the southern Macedonian city of Bitola on Tuesday.

The Italian bushfires that claimed four lives last Tuesday near the town of Peschici, in the southern Puglia region, prompted the Defence Minister to send in the military to help.

Four campsites were destroyed and about 4000 people were evacuated by sea from the beach at Peschici as fire swept down to the shore.

Greece was also recovering from a season of blazes that in the past month have devastated 32,000 hectares of land, according to the government.

One of the larger fires destroyed 5600 hectares of forest on Mount Parnitha, overlooking Athens, including more than a third of a national park that was supposedly among Greece’s best protected areas.

But Britain was longing for drier weather, as the fate of many English cities, towns and villages hung in the balance while emergency crews built up defences against rising waters.

There were more desperate scenes across central and western England, which have been bearing the brunt of the floods.

There were reports that a young mother’s premature twins had died, despite her rescue by a Royal Air Force helicopter.

And a teenager from the town of Tewkesbury had not been seen since Saturday.

There were warnings of a humanitarian crisis as emergency services battled to get supplies through to flood-stricken communities.

Though flood waters were receding in the worst-hit parts of the Severn Valley, the surge from last Friday’s storms was continuing to spread its misery down the Thames.

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