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Southern Europe swelters as 'Cerberus' heat wave bites

Alerts were in effect across Spain’s Canary Islands, Italy, Cyprus and Greece, where authorities expect temperatures to reach as high as 109.4 degrees.
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/ Source: Reuters

Southern Europe sweltered under a fierce heat wave on Thursday, with a warning that temperatures could hit record highs for the continent next week.

Weather alerts were in place across Spain’s Canary Islands, Italy, Cyprus and Greece, with the Greek authorities expecting temperatures to reach as high as 109.4 degrees Fahrenheit on Friday or Saturday.

An ambulance was put on standby near the archaeological site of the Acropolis in Athens, according to local media, ready to provide first aid to tourists suffering in the heat.

The government has announced emergency measures this week, allowing workers to stay home during peak temperature hours as a heat wave is due to affects most of Greece.
Tourists seek shade at the ancient Acropolis hill in Athens on Thursday. Petros Giannakouris / AP

The impact of extreme summer heat has been brought into focus by research this week that said as many as 61,000 people may have died in Europe’s sweltering heat waves last summer.

Governments and employers are under pressure to do more to protect workers exposed to the burning sun in the latest heat wave, which the Italian Meteorological Society has named “Cerberus,” the three-headed dog of the underworld in Greek mythology.

There are concerns about the impact on those working outdoors in Italy after a 44-year-old man who was painting road markings in the northern town of Lodi collapsed and died this week.

Health authorities issued a top, red alert warning for 10 Italian cities for the next two days, including Rome, Florence, Bologna and Perugia.

In Greece, the government has ordered the suspension of work during the afternoon in areas where the risk from heat is very high, and also requested remote work for private sector employees with health conditions.

There was some respite in Spain on Thursday after images captured by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel 3 satellites had measured the land surface temperature at in excess of 140F in the western region of Extremadura on Tuesday.

Heatwave In Greece
Temperatures in Greece are expected to be as high as 109.4 degrees Fahrenheit on Friday or Saturday.Giorgos Arapekos / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Weather forecasts and official records are based on the air temperature which is significantly lower than the land surface reading.

The record European temperature of 120F was registered in Sicily in August 2021 and could be exceeded next week, according to the European Space Agency.

Italy is again forecast to be one of the hottest spots.

“Next week there will be an even stronger heat wave than this one, some values in the central south will be really freaky,” said Luca Lombroso, meteorologist from the AMPRO group in Italy.

“Between Tuesday and Wednesday in Rome and Florence we will probably exceed 104 degrees, which will also be approached in the north,” he added.

Italy Heatwave Europe Extreme Weather
Tourists refresh themselves with water from Barcaccia Fountain in Piazza di Spagna in Rome on Wednesday. Stefano Montesi - Corbis / Getty Images

Marco Impagliazzo, president of the Sant’Egidio Catholic charity, said an estimated nine million older Italians lived alone or with an elderly partner and were particularly vulnerable.

“With this solitude and this heat emergency, we see an explosive mix,” he told a press conference.

It’s not just humans who are suffering.

Italian farmers’ lobby group Coldiretti said milk production was down by around 10% because cows eat less in the heat, drink huge quantities of water and make less milk.