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Italy told to brace for "most intense heat wave" ever, as Europe expected to see record temperatures

Rome — Temperatures reached new highs on Monday as heat waves scorched parts of the Northern Hemisphere, triggering health warnings and fanning wildfires in the latest stark reminder of the effects of global warming. From North America to Europe and Asia, people gulped water and sought shelter from the sweltering heat, with the mercury expected to reach new highs in several places in the next few days.

Europe, the globe's fastest-warming continent, was bracing for its hottest-ever temperature this week on Italy's islands of Sicily and Sardinia, where a high of 118 degrees Fahrenheit is predicted, according to the European Space Agency.

Heat wave hits Rome as temperatures expected to rise further in the coming days
A woman cools off at Fontana della Barcaccia at the Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy, during a heat wave across southern Europe, July 17, 2023. GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE/REUTERS

"We're from Texas and it's really hot there, we thought we would escape the heat but it's even hotter here," Colman Peavy, 30, said as he sipped a cappuccino at an outside terrasse in central Rome with his wife Ana at the start of a two-week Italian vacation.

With June already having been the world's hottest on record and the first week of July also setting a global record, according to the EU weather monitoring service, Mother Nature seemed intent on July not falling far behind. 

Authorities started issuing warnings about significant health risks last week, primarily in Spain, where temperatures may soon reach a staggering 113 degrees in some regions. 

In Cyprus, where temperatures are expected to remain above 104 degrees through Thursday, a 90-year-old man died as a result of heatstroke and three other seniors were hospitalized, health officials said. Italians were warned to prepare for "the most intense heat wave of the summer and also one of the most intense of all time," with the health ministry sounding a red alert for 16 cities including Rome, Bologna and Florence.

Temperatures were due to climb as high as 110 degrees in Rome on Tuesday, smashing the record of 105 degrees set in August 2007. Nevertheless, visitors thronged to tourist hot spots like the Colosseum and the Vatican.

"I'm from South Africa. We're used to this heat," said Jacob Vreunissen, 60, a civil engineer from Cape Town. "You have to drink lots of water, obviously, wear your hat, and that's about it."

Heat wave Cerberus scorching Europe 01:58

Greece got some respite on Monday, as temperatures eased a bit and the Acropolis in Athens resumed its regular opening hours after shutting for a few hours during the previous three days.

But a new heat wave was expected from Thursday and authorities on Monday ordered several seaside resorts evacuated as a precaution after a wildfire broke out in Kouvaras, 31 miles east of Athens.

"It's a difficult fire, the winds are really strong," said firefighters spokesman Yannis Artopios as seven water planes, four helicopters and 150 firefighters battled the blaze.

In Romania, temperatures were expected to reach 102 degrees on Monday across most of the country.

Little reprieve was forecast for Spain, where meteorologists warned of expected "abnormally high" temperatures Monday, including up to 111 degrees in the southern Andalusia region in what would be a new regional record.

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