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Heat hits Europe, Britain eyes 100-degree record

Sun-drenched tourists sought solace in the fountains of Rome and Tour de France cyclists peeled back their bodysuits on Monday as Europe shimmered in a blistering heat wave.

india Updated: Jul 15, 2003 10:42 IST
Reuters
Reuters
PTI

Sun-drenched tourists sought solace in the fountains of Rome and Tour de France cyclists peeled back their bodysuits on Monday as Europe shimmered in a blistering heat wave.

Even Britain belied its reputation as a country where the sun never shines. Bookmakers said there was a chance temperatures would hit a symbolic 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 Celsius) this week for the first time since records began.

France experienced a scorching Bastille Day, prompting thousands of Parisians to flock to the city's elegant parks and open air pools.

The heat seeped as far north as Finland, where the temperature hit 29.8C in the southeastern town of Utti. Meteorologists said the average there at this time of year is a mere 19C.

The Swiss banned fishing in several of their cantons as the heat caused oxygen levels to drop, endangering the lives of trout in the country's rivers and streams. In some areas fish were being moved to oxygen-richer waters.

In neighbouring Germany, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper warned that if Europe continues to experience hotter, drier weather, Berlin and the surrounding Brandenburg region could become a desert by the middle of this century.

"Already parts of Brandenburg have become Steppe-like," it said in a report on global warming.

BRITISH BOOKIES WORRIED

The British indulged in their national sport -- talking about the weather -- but for once, the conversation did not revolve around rain.

Bookmakers William Hill cut their odds against a 100F reading from 16/1 to an all-time low of 14/1.

"Even in the sweltering summer of 1976 the odds never dipped below 16/1," spokesman Graham Sharpe said. "But we're already fearing a six-figure payout if it happens this year."

According to the Meteorological Office, the highest temperature ever recorded in Britain was 99F in 1990.

The Welsh capital Cardiff was Britain's hottest city on Monday, recording a high of 31.3C (88F).

In Rome, temperatures have been stuck above 35C for weeks, sapping the strength of the city's thousands of tourists.

Some took a cooling bath in the famous Trevi fountain and Bernini's Four Rivers' fountain in Piazza Navona, earning themselves a fine from the police.

Weeks of hot weather in northern Italy have created drought in some areas, sucking water from the mighty River Po, an essential source of irrigation for the country's farms.

In France, cyclists on the Tour de France sacrificed aerodynamics for air by unzipping their close-fitting bodysuits to cool off. One cyclist crashed out of the race after his tyre blew on the melted tarmac road surface.

Only the Spaniards, used to scorching heat, seemed unfazed.

The temperature hit 37.1C in Zaragoza but Spanish meteorologists said there was nothing unusual in that at this time of year.

First Published: Jul 15, 2003 10:42 IST