Spain and Portugal have reported more than 1,900 deaths linked to the heatwave. More than 850 people died in Spain between 10-18 July due to searing temperatures, which hit 43 degrees Celsius (109.4F) near Seville. At least 1,000 excess deaths occurred in Portugal between 7-18 July due to the heatwave, the country’s top public health official told Reuters.
In the UK the mercury hit 40.3C in the Lincolnshire village of Coningsby, as the country topped 40C for the first time in record. While official figures on heat-related deaths in the UK were not immediately available, some 13 people have died in open water during the extreme weather.
The dangerous heat – which is overwhelmingly caused by emissions from burning fossil fuels – has parched landscapes and fueled erratic wildfires across the continent including in Portugal, Spain, Croatia, Greece, France, Slovenia and Germany. Major blazes roared across the UK, destroying a number of homes. Emergency responders battled at least 22 wildfires in England and Wales, with hundreds of smaller vegetation fires reported.
London Fire Brigade reported its busiest day on Tuesday since the Second World War. “It was unbelievable. It was something I’ve not experienced before like that,” said Nick Singleton, from Essex Country Fire and Rescue Service. The village of Wennington, Greater London, is thought to have lost at least 18 houses to a blaze which took 100 firefighters several hours to extinguish.
Europe was not alone. In the US, roughly one in three people – more than 100 million – were under alerts during another punishing week of high temperatures. Parts of Texas and Oklahoma saw consecutive days of temperatures well over 100F (38C), and on Wednesday, heat and humidity combined to make parts of Arkansas feel up to 115F (46C). A state of emergency was declared in Boston, while the longest heatwave in almost a decade was forecast for New York City, straining the grid.
In eastern China, a tornado killed at least one person and injured 25 after it tore through 11 villages amid a heatwave. Dozens of cities including Shanghai have seen dangerously high temperatures which have buckled roads and popped the tiles from roofs.
Parts of the Middle East and North Africa have also seen new highs over the past few weeks. Tunisia’s capital, Tunis, broke a 40-year old record on 13 July, hitting 48C (118F) with heat and fires damaging crops. Iran has experienced sustained extreme heat after the mercury climate to 52C (126F) in June.
“Half of humanity is in the danger zone, from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday.
“No nation is immune. Yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction. We have a choice. Collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands.”