To the lake: Eastern Europe staggered by heat wave

To the lake: Eastern Europe staggered by heat wave

25 August 2011

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Serbia — Overheated people fainted in the streets. Wildfires burned out of control. Polar bears got extra frozen fish and elephants were doused with cold water.

Authorities across the Balkans issued an emergency heat alert Thursday as temperatures soared to record-high levels.

Officials in Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Albania and Hungary sounded an “orange” heat warning for people to stay indoors and drink water to avoid hyperthermia.

Doctors in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, said emergency teams made over 100 interventions Thursday with residents feeling sick from the heat.

“People are collapsing and falling in the streets,” said emergency clinic doctor Zeljko Bacevic.

One of the hottest spots was Montenegro, where authorities recommended that working hours be cut to skip the extensive heat. Temperatures in capital of Podgorica reached 41 degrees Celsius (106 Fahrenheit) on Thursday, capping one of the longest hot periods in the tiny Adriatic Sea nation in 50 years.

In Macedonia, authorities warned people above 60 and pregnant women not to go to work. In Bosnia and Serbia, unions urged construction companies to pull employees from open air work sites.

In the central Bosnian city of Mostar, temperatures soared to 45 Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) for the second day running. Kids jumped on melting asphalt, leaving footprints in the streets.

“The only way to deal with this is in the river,” said Mostar high school student Semir Hebib. “I sleep on my balcony and in the morning I go and sit next to or in the Neretva river till the evening.”

Zookeepers in Hungary’s capital of Budapest cooled polar bears with ice and cold water to protect them as some areas of the country hit 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), breaking a record set in 1943.

“Those animals that originally live in the Arctic suffer the most. This extreme hot weather challenges them very much,” said Budapest Zoo press officer Zoltan Hanga, adding that workers froze some fish to help the polar bears cool down.

Hella the elephant was also sprayed with cold water.

In southern Bosnia, many people were suffering from stomach infections due to the heat.

“High temperatures are ideal for bacterial infections caused by the consumption of spoiled food,” said Dr. Dijana Mamic, hospital chief in the town of Livno. She said the town had over 50 cases this week.

Authorities in the Romanian capital of Bucharest put up 14 First Aid tents to offer some relief.

Montenegro, Bosnia and Albania were fighting several wildfires near their capitals and along the Adriatic Sea coastline, but no major injuries or damages were reported.

Meteorologists say current temperatures in the Balkans are about 10 degrees Celsius higher that average for this time of year — and that the heat wave from North Africa is expected to last for several more days.

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