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Hot, dusty and on fire: Portugal’s heatwave breaks records

People cool off in an urban beach Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, at Madrid Rio park in Madrid. Spain’s Meteorological Agency says eight provinces in the southern Andalusia region and around Madrid are under high risk because of the heat wave hitting the country starting on Wednesday. (Francisco Seco / AP)
People cool off in an urban beach Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, at Madrid Rio park in Madrid. Spain’s Meteorological Agency says eight provinces in the southern Andalusia region and around Madrid are under high risk because of the heat wave hitting the country starting on Wednesday. (Francisco Seco / AP)
By Barry Hatton Associated Press

LISBON, Portugal – Eight places in Portugal broke local temperature records as a wave of heat from North Africa swept across the Iberian peninsula – and officials predicted the scorching temperatures could get even worse over the weekend.

Temperatures built to around 113 degrees Fahrenheit Friday in many inland areas of Portugal, and were expected to peak at 116.6 degrees Fahrenheit in some places Saturday. Large sections of Portugal are on red alert on the Civil Protection Agency’s danger scale.

The highest temperature recorded Thursday, when the heat began to rise, was 113.4 degrees Fahrenheit near Abrantes, a town 93 miles northeast of the capital, Lisbon, the country’s weather agency IPMA said.

Portugal’s highest recorded temperature was 117.3 degrees Fahrenheit in 2003. Emergency services have issued a red alert through Sunday, placing extra services such as medical staff and firefighters on standby.

In Portugal’s southern Alentejo province, streets were largely deserted. Some farmers chose to work during the night instead of in the heat of the day. Beaches around Lisbon, the capital, were packed.

Some 400 firefighters and five water-dropping aircraft, meanwhile, were battling a wildfire in southern Portugal’s Algarve region.

Portugal sees large wildfires every year, although unseasonably cool weather through the end of July has meant fewer blazes in 2018. The government says only about 15 percent of the 10-year average area has been charred so far this year.

Temperatures were being driven higher across the Iberian peninsula by a hot air mass moving northward from Africa, which is also bringing dust from the Sahara Desert, meteorologists said. The dust gave the sky a dark yellow hue in some places.

In Spain, heat warnings were also issued for 41 of the country’s 50 provinces as temperatures were expected to reach up to 111.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Spain’s highest recorded temperature is 116.42 degrees Fahrenheit in Cordoba, a southern city, in July 2017.

The World Meteorological Organization says continental Europe’s record is 118.4 degrees Fahrenheit in Greece in 1977.

In northern Europe, Sweden was still under threat from wildfires, which in recent weeks have extended into the Arctic Circle.

Sweden’s Civil Contingencies Agency warned of “a high risk” for wildfires in central and southern Sweden this weekend because of the continuing dry weather and strong winds.

And over in Britain, an unusually long, torrid summer has taken its toll on the country’s flowers. The supermarket chain Morrisons has begun selling “wonky” flowers that have not developed properly.

The U.K.’s Met Office weather service says July was the country’s third-warmest month in more than a century.

In Moscow, as temperatures rose to close to 86 degrees Fahrenheit, city authorities announced they were opening hundreds of “cool rooms” where residents could rest amid air conditioning, with water dispensers and medical attendants.

Although that temperature is far below the blazing heat hitting southern Europe, it’s well above the Russian capital’s average August maximum of 73 degrees Fahrenheit.

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