Paris -- Schools are dousing kids with water and nursing homes are equipping the elderly with hydration sensors as France and other nations battle a record-setting heat wave baking much of Europe. Several people have died around the continent in incidents that authorities are linking to the exceptional weather. A major wildfire raged Friday in Spain, sparked when a pile of chicken dung spontaneously combusted in the heat.
Several countries have reported record temperatures this week, and France hit its all-time heat record Friday: 113 degrees in the small southern town of Villevieille, according to French media.
The French national weather service activated its highest-level heat danger alert for the first time, putting four regions around Marseille and Montpellier in the south of the country under special watch Friday.
About 4,000 schools closed because they couldn't ensure safe conditions, and local authorities canceled many end-of-school-year carnivals.
Some criticized the government for going overboard, but Prime Minister Edouard Philippe defended the efforts after 15,000 people died in a heat wave in 2003 that woke France up to the risks.
"This heat wave is exceptional by its intensity and its earliness," he told reporters.
Climate change link?
CBS News contributing meteorologist Jeff Berardelli wrote in an article for Yale Climate Connections this week that heat waves are becoming more frequent around the world, and said there is convincing evidence suggesting a link to climate change.
According to NOAA's natural hazard statistics, Berardelli said extreme heat causes more deaths per year in United States than any other weather hazard. "As the climate continues to warm, that number could rise dramatically in the U.S. and around the world," he said.
"Since the late 1800s, human-caused climate change has warmed the Earth's average temperature by around 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit). That doesn't sound like much, but a relatively small warming of the average temperature results in a large jump in extreme heat," said Berardelli.
He cited studies done in the wake of a 2003 heat wave in Europe -- which left 70,000 people dead -- showing "human influence at least doubled the risk of a heat wave of that magnitude."
"In 2010, another 56,000 people died in a heat wave in Russia. A 2011 study concluded that there is an 80% probability the heat wave would not have occurred without global warming," Berardelli wrote.
Elsewhere in Europe
Italy put 16 cities under alerts for high temperatures, and civil security services distributed water to tourists visiting famed sites around Rome under a scorching sun.
Heat was blamed for the deaths of two people in Spain, private news agency Europa Press reported Friday.
An 80-year-old man collapsed and died in the street in Valladolid, in northwest Spain, the agency said, and a 17-year-old boy died in the southern city of Cordoba after diving into a swimming pool and losing consciousness.
Four people have drowned so far in France this week, and a 12-year-old girl drowned in a river near Manchester, England. France's health minister and British police warned people to swim only in authorized areas.
France has also seen an uptick in so-called street-pooling, or illegally opening fire hydrants. A 6-year-old child is in life-threatening condition after being hit by water shooting from a cracked-open fire hydrant in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, broadcaster France-Info reported.
More than 600 firefighters and six water-dropping aircraft were battling the worst fire in two decades in the Catalonia region Friday, as Spain is forecast to endure the peak of its heat wave, with temperatures expected to exceed 104 degrees.
In Berlin, a police unit turned water cannons - usually used against rioters - on city trees, to cool them down.