Extreme weather grips the globe as heatwaves and wildfires rage

Temperatures have reached new highs as heatwaves and wildfires scorch parts of the northern hemisphere.

A man cools off in a public water playground at a park in eastern Tokyo
A man cools off in a public water playground at a park in eastern Tokyo, Japan [Richard A. Brooks/AFP]

Temperatures have soared towards new highs across three continents as heatwaves and wildfires are scorching parts of the northern hemisphere.

Health authorities have sounded alarms from North America to Europe and Asia, urging people to stay hydrated and shelter from the burning sun, in a stark reminder of the effects of global warming.

California’s Death Valley, often among the hottest places on Earth, reached a near-record 53.3 Celsius (128 Fahrenheit) on Sunday afternoon.

Near Athens, Greece, a forest fire flared in strong winds by the popular beach town of Loutraki, where the mayor said holiday camps for youngsters had come under threat, forcing the children’s evacuation.

“We have saved 1,200 children who were in the holiday camps,” Mayor Giorgos Gkionis said on Monday.

Europe, the globe’s fastest-warming continent, was bracing for its hottest-ever temperature on Italy’s islands of Sicily and Sardinia, where a high of 48C (118F) is predicted, according to the European Space Agency.

The United Nations on Wednesday validated the European heat record of 48.8C (119.8F) set in Sicily in 2021.

“The extreme weather – an increasingly frequent occurrence in our warming climate – is having a major impact on human health, ecosystems, economies, agriculture, energy and water supplies,” said World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

“This underlines the increasing urgency of cutting greenhouse gas emissions as quickly and as deeply as possible.”

It was already the world’s hottest June on record, according to the European Union weather monitoring service, and July looks to be readying to challenge its own record.

“There are heatwave warnings stretching from Hungary down through the Balkan states through Italy and back towards central Spain. They exist for a couple days at least,” Al Jazeera’s senior weather presenter Rob McElwee said.

China reported a new high for mid-July in the northwest of the country, where the temperature reached 52.2C (126F) in the Xinjiang region’s village of Sanbao, breaking the previous high of 50.6C (123F) set six years ago.

In nearby Turpan city, where ground surface temperatures sizzled at 80C (176F) in some parts, authorities have told workers and students to stay home and ordered special vehicles to spray water on major thoroughfares, the weather body said.

In Cyprus, where temperatures are expected to remain above 40C (104F) through Thursday, a 90-year-old man died as a result of heatstroke and three other seniors were hospitalised, health officials said.

In the Turkish-held north of the island, building worker Achebe Chimeka, aged 27, was still toiling outside. He may be used to the sun, but admitted “It’s very intense heat. It feels like my brain is going to stop.”

“Some bosses don’t follow the rules but we don’t want to complain for fear of losing our jobs,” he said.

In Japan, heatstroke alerts were issued in 32 out of the country’s 47 prefectures, mainly in central and southwestern regions.

At least 60 people in Japan were treated for heatstroke, local media reported, including 51 who were taken to hospital in Tokyo.

The heat was enough for at least one man to dispense with social mortification in Hamamatsu city.

“It’s honestly unbearable without a parasol, although I have to admit it is a bit embarrassing,” he told national broadcaster NHK of the umbrella in his hand.

‘Oppressive’ US heat

In western and southern states in the United States – places that are used to high temperatures – more than 80 million people were under advisories as a “widespread and oppressive” heatwave roasted the region.

McElwee reported that Reno, Nevada reached a new record of 42C (107F).

“We’ve had new records in this general part of the US. The desert southwest will stay hot, although not necessarily record breaking for a few more days,” McElwee said.

In Arizona, the state capital Phoenix recorded its 17th straight day above 43C (109F), as temperatures hit (45C) 113F on Sunday afternoon.

“We’re used to 110F, 112F … But not the streaks,” Nancy Leonard, a 64-year-old retiree from the nearby suburb of Peoria, told AFP. “You just have to adapt”.

Historic highs forecast

In Europe, Italians were warned to prepare for “the most intense heatwave of the summer and also one of the most intense of all time,” with the health ministry sounding a red alert for 16 cities including Rome, Bologna and Florence.

Temperatures were due to hit 42C-43C (107F-109F) in Rome on Tuesday, smashing the record of 40.5C (104.9F) set in August 2007.

Nevertheless, visitors thronged to tourist hot spots like the Colosseum and the Vatican.

“I’m from South Africa. We’re used to this heat,” said Jacob Vreunissen, 60, a civil engineer from Cape Town.

“You have to drink lots of water, obviously wear your hat and that’s about it.”

In Romania, temperatures are expected to reach 39C (102F) on Monday.

Little reprieve is forecast for Spain, where meteorologists warned of “abnormally high” temperatures on Monday, including up to 44C (111F) in the southern Andalusia region in what would be a new regional record.

Along with the heat, parts of Asia have also been battered by torrential rain.

South Korea’s president vowed Monday to “completely overhaul” the country’s approach to extreme weather, after at least 40 people were killed in recent flooding and landslides during monsoon rains, which are forecast to continue through Wednesday.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies