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WEATHER

Spain sizzles as ‘Lucifer’ heatwave grips southern Europe

As southern Europe is gripped in a hellishly hot heatwave, 20 provinces in Spain are put on alert for high temperartures.

Spain sizzles as 'Lucifer' heatwave grips southern Europe
Photo: AFP

Yellow alerts – indicating significant risk –  for high temperatures were issued for Valencia, the islands of Menorca and Mallorca, Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Toledo, Zaragoza, Teruel, Seville, Malaga, Huelva and Cadiz as well as Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro in Canary Islands.

While in Cordoba, Granada, Jaén and the islands of Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote were put on orange alert, signifying high risk.

The only regions to escape the heatwave sweeping across southern Europe were the north east and northern coast of Spain where rain, strong winds and storms were forecast from Galicia to Asturias, Cantabria and the mountainous Pyrenean zone.

Swathes of southern Europe sweltered over the weekend in a heatwave that has claimed several lives, cost billions in crop damage and is, scientists warned, a foretaste of worse to follow in coming decades.

At least five deaths in Italy and Romania and one in Spain have been attributed to the extreme conditions since the heatwave set in around the start of August.   

Unusually high, sometimes unprecedented temperatures, are being recorded across an area spanning much of Spain and Portugal, southern France, Italy, the Balkans and Hungary.

The mercury has regularly risen above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) across the affected areas, exacerbating the impact of an extended drought and the lingering impact of a July heatwave which sparked wildfires that claimed 60 lives in Portugal.

Hospital admissions have spiked 15-20 percent in Italy, where at least three people have died.

Italians longing for the beach have dubbed the hot spell “Lucifero”, or Lucifer, after the biblical archangel said to have been condemned forever to the flames of hell.

The latest victim was a woman whose car was swept away overnight by an avalanche of water and mud as humid conditions near the Alpine ski resort of Cortina d'Ampezzo broke into torrential rain.

That tragedy follows the deaths on Thursday of two pensioners caught up in wildfires in the central region of Abruzzo and near Matera in the south of the country.

In Spain a 51-year-old man died as a result of the heat on the Mediterranean island of Majorca.

150,000 weather deaths

Scientists meanwhile warned that deaths due to extreme weather in Europe could increase 50-fold from an estimated 3,000 per year recently to 152,000 by the end of this century – if global warming is not reined in.

Southern Europe will suffer most and heatwaves would account for 99 percent of the deaths, according to research conducted for the European Commission and published in The Lancet Planetary Health.

READ MORE: Top ten tips to survive the Spanish summer

WEATHER

Spain urges holidaymakers to head home early due to snow and strong wind warnings

Nine Spanish regions were put on alert on Tuesday for heavy snow, rain and strong winds, with the country's traffic authorities calling for people taking holidays this long weekend to head home early to avoid the worst of the bad weather.

Spain urges holidaymakers to head home early due to snow and strong wind warnings
Vehicles stuck in traffic due to a heavy snowfall near Burgos, northern Spain, in March 2021. Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP

Aragón, Castilla y León, Catalonia, Navarra and the Basque Country will be on orange alert from Tuesday for snow storms, while Asturias, Cantabria, La Rioja and La Comunidad Valenciana are on the less-severe yellow alert, Spain’s State Meteorological Agency (Aemet) announced.

A slight increase in temperatures will increase the risk of avalanches in the Pyrenees and the central Cantabrian mountain range.

Some roads in the north of the country are already being affected by snow and are being restricted to some traffic such as trucks and heavy vehicles.

Spain’s traffic authority (DGT) called on residents in the northern half of the country to return early from the puente (long weekend) marked by the public holidays of December 6 and 8, ahead of heavy snow forecast for Wednesday.

Of the 108 main roads affected by the heavy snow in Spain, almost half of them are in the northeastern region Aragón.

Aragón, Catalonia and Navarra are at risk of avalanches, according to data from Aemet, while a storm warning has been issued for the coastal areas of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, Catalonia and the Basque country.

Heavy rainfall is expected in Galicia, extending to Cantabria and the western Pyrenees.

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