A heat wave is set to descend upon Europe this week, weather so intense that a forecaster in Spain warned, “El infierno (hell) is coming.”
The heat wave is expected to peak between Wednesday and Friday when temperatures are expected to top 40 degrees Celsius from Spain to Poland.
Authorities warned early summer heat waves are especially dangerous because people have not had to adapt to the higher temperatures.
French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said more than half of France is on alert for high temperatures. Public service announcements on TV, radio, and on buses and trains urged the French to keep an eye out for older family members and neighbors.
Most of France is under an orange alert, the second-highest level on the country’s heat scale. The scale was established after the 2003 heat wave killed some 15,000 people.
The French Education Ministry ordered the national school exams to be postponed to next week. Paris city officials mobilized teams to hand out water to the homeless. The city also extended the hours for city pools, and set up thousands of misting tents and cooling rooms.
Authorities in Switzerland also raised that country's alert to its second-highest level, especially for regions along the southern and northern borders with Italy and Germany.
Germany's meteorological agency said temperatures Wednesday could break the current record in June of 38.5 Celsius.
Temperatures also soared in the Baltics, sending scores of people to lakes and rivers to cool down, leading to a spike in drownings. In Lithuania, where the highs reached 35.7 degrees Celsius, 27 people were reported to have drowned.
Heat waves are becoming more common across Europe and are expected to double in frequency by 2050, the French meteorological agency says.