Heatwave across Europe; blackouts for humans, ice cream for monkeys

  • AFP, Paris
  • Updated: Jul 01, 2015 21:00 IST

A blistering heatwave swept across much of northern Europe on Wednesday causing blackouts in France and pushing the mercury to as high as 40C.

The UN warned heatwaves were growing more frequent and intense due to climate change and called on more countries to put warning systems in place to inform people of the dangers.

At the Safaripark Beekse Bergen zoo in The Netherlands, staff had already put their emergency procedures in place -- including ice cubes for baboons, cold showers for the elephants, and special meat- and fruit-flavoured ice cream for the ring-tailed lemurs.


A mandrill licks a fruit ice cream in Ouwehands Dierenpark (Ouwehands Zoo) in Rhenen. (AFP Photo)

Around a million homes in western France were left without power overnight Tuesday as the hot front continued its sweep up from Africa,, and another blackout struck the western Vannes region Wednesday morning, cutting electricity to 100,000 houses.

"At this temperature, we can't stay on a roof. It's overwhelming," said Laurent Floux, a roofer in Paris, who got his team working at the crack of dawn to avoid the worst of the heat.


A thermometer in Lille as a major heatwave spreads up through Europe, with temperatures hitting nearly 40 degrees. (AFP Photo)

Many schools across Europe shifted their start times to keep kids out of the sun's glare.

Rotterdam's football club Feyenoord also said it was shifting training to later in the day.

Meanwhile in central London, public fountains became impromptu beaches, with parents sunbathing on benches and children playing in the water in their swimming costumes behind King's Cross station.


Office workers enjoy a break in London's Green Park. (AFP Photo)

The first death linked to the heatwave was reported in the British press after a father drowned while trying to save his young daughter cooling off in a river in the northern Cumbria region.

The Muslim Council of Britain warned people fasting for Ramadan to take extra care, and said Islamic law allowed the sick and vulnerable to break the daytime fast during extreme conditions.

UN warning

The last major hot spell in 2003 caused an estimated 70,000 deaths in Europe -- particularly among the elderly, sick and very young.
The elderly, sick, and those on certain medications are vulnerable because their bodies' heat regulation system can be impaired, leading to heatstroke.

"Young children produce more metabolic heat, have a decreased ability to sweat and have core temperatures that rise faster during dehydration," said Britain's National Health Service in a report.


Members of the public cool their feet in the Princess Diana memorial fountain in London's Hyde Park. (AFP Photo)

The UN called for heatwave warning systems that would highlight the health hazards and inform people what they should do to protect themselves.

France and Belgium are among the countries that introduced such a system after the deadly 2003 heatwave.


A white tiger licks a frozen block of ice at the Bordeaux-Pessac zoo, southwestern France. (AFP Photo)

But elsewhere, such systems are not common, Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum of WHO told AFP, voicing concern about places like Pakistan, where more than 1,200 people have died amid soaring temperatures in the south of the country.

That crisis came a month after neighbouring India suffered its own deadly heatwave which killed more than 2,000 people.

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