As an extreme heatwave continues to sweep across Europe, concerns have been raised for elderly and vulnerable people.
Countries including France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and Portugal are currently experiencing uncommonly high temperatures, with devastating consequences. Multiple fatalities have been reported, with people in affected areas warned to take care.
Temperatures in Spain are anticipated to reach perilous highs of 42°C on Friday, with the country’s meteorological office issuing red alerts in areas of Catalonia, Navarre and the Basque country.
Two deaths have been confirmed in Spain, with other people having been hospitalised with suspected heatstroke.
As reported by The Guardian, a 17-year-old boy in the Córdoba province of Andalucía died from heatstroke in the early hours of Friday.
The teenager began feeling unwell while working in the countryside. He then experienced convulsions after jumping into a swimming pool in an attempt to cool off. He later died in hospital. An 80-year-old man from the city of Valladolid also died on Thursday after he collapsed from suspected heatstroke.
France is currently experiencing highs of 44.3°C (111.7°F), the hottest temperature in the country’s history. This extreme temperature was taken in Carpentras, a town in the South of France, and beats the previous record of 44.1°C, recorded during the notorious 2003 heatwave.
With temperatures believed to have the potential to exceed 45°C, the Meteo-France have issued orange alerts. As reported by The Telegraph, three people have died in France this week.
— James Ellsmoor 🏝 (@jellsmoor) June 27, 2019
A 70-year-old man in southern France died after jumping into cold water at the Marseillan-Plage beach on Monday, June 24.
Just one day later, two others died under similar circumstances. A 62-year-old woman died at Frontignan beach near Montpellier after ‘having a malaise and drowning’, while a 75-year-old man passed away close by at Carnon beach. These deaths have been attributed to hydrocution, or ‘cold shock response’.
This refers to the temporary breathlessness and constriction of blood vessels when a person comes into contact with cold water due to extreme temperature differences.
French firemen are now warning citizens to enter cold water gradually to allow their body to become accustomed to drastic temperature changes.
BREAKING: XR France has just occupied a bridge in central #Paris. In the space of minutes the bridge has been filled with songs and drums, flags and banners, and over 100 people willing to face arrest before moving. It’s also a record-blasting #heatwave today… join the dots! pic.twitter.com/LXQtHN1xs5
— Extinction Rebellion ⌛️ (@ExtinctionR) June 28, 2019
Unusually high temperatures have also been reported in countries such as Germany, Portugal, Italy and the Czech Republic, with further terrible consequences.
The Guardian has reported a 72-year-old homeless man has died at Milan’s main train station after taking ill during the heatwave. Meanwhile, at least four people in Germany died during bathing accidents while trying to cool down in the heat.
UNILADspoke with Will Aylward, a therapist who lives in West Germany about how he is coping with the heatwave.
Will told UNILAD:
It’s been crazy hot over here in Germany all week, with temperatures getting up 34/35 degrees.
Nationwide, Germany has encouraged people to go home early if their company allows flexible working hours.
Luckily, I live in a cellar apartment which is naturally cool, staying even cooler by keeping the blinds down (this is a very German thing). I’m self-employed and working from home so I’ve only left the house once this week because it was absolutely necessary (food shopping).
A 2018 World Weather Attribution study concluded last year’s European heatwave was due to human activities contributing towards climate change.
Environmental science experts believe this latest heatwave is also due to climate change, with the reported tragedies bringing a chilling warning about severe environmental disasters to come.
Morten Thaysen, Climate Campaigner for Greenpeace UK, has given the following sobering statement to UNILAD:
The tragic deaths being caused across Europe by the latest heatwave are a bitter reminder of what we have coming in the next couple of decades, but also of the far bigger disasters already occurring in hotter, poorer countries in the global South.
Climate change is already killing people, and the death toll will rise dramatically. The question we need to face up to is whether we’re willing to risk that death toll going up into the hundreds of millions, or whether we’re prepared to take decisive action now.
The government has indicated that they understand what needs to be done – complete decarbonisation – but they’re still dragging their feet on actually doing it. They should ban fracking and cancel the third runway today, and start drawing up some ambitious new policies tomorrow. If they’re short of ideas, we’d be happy to advise.
Although heatwaves are fairly common, weather experts believe rising global temperatures will cause them to increase in frequency. At the time of writing, it remains unknown when this most recent heatwave will end.
Martin Bowles, an operational meteorologist at the Met Office, has given the following advice to UNILAD readers who may currently be experiencing extreme heat:
Very high temperatures are being experienced in France at the moment and will continue into the weekend. 45°C was reached in the Occitanie department and a red warning has been issued by Meteo France for dangerous weather.
Maximum temperatures on Saturday and Sunday will reach around 37°C in many places. Any visitors to France need to make sure they drink plenty of water, wear sun protection, and stay out of direct sunlight in the afternoons.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) June 28, 2019
Remember, heatwaves aren’t just about ice cream and sunbathing. Make sure to look after yourself and to keep an eye out for those who might be vulnerable to heat in the weekend ahead.
Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by this ongoing heatwave.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.