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At Nearly 115 Degrees, France Experiences Its Hottest Day on Record

MADRID — France experienced heat never seen in the country’s recorded history on Friday as a heat wave pushed the temperatures to nearly 115 degrees Fahrenheit in one southern village.

The spell of unusually warm weather stretched across much of Europe this week, bringing urgent government alerts, contributing to wildfires in Spain and Germany, and leading to the death of at least two people.

While experts have yet to draw a firm connection between this relatively early — and extreme — heat wave and global warming, it fits a clear overall trend. As greenhouse gas emissions lead to a rise in global temperatures, heat waves around the world are occurring more often, and they are hotter and last longer.

Temperatures were well above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, or 40 degrees Celsius, in many parts of the Continent on Friday, although the heat eased in Central and Eastern Europe.Meteorologists said temperatures were expected to drop across the Continent in the coming days.

Spain’s official weather agency placed seven provinces under the highest heat alert level on Friday. Such a “red alert” had been issued only once before, in June 2015.

At least two deaths have been attributed to the weather this week, Spanish officials said: a 17-year-old farm laborer in Córdoba and an 80-year-old in Valladolid.

Hundreds of firefighters were struggling on Friday to control a wildfire in Catalonia, Spain’s northeastern region, after extreme temperatures appeared to have caused mismanaged manure on a farm to ignite, officials said.

By midday, the fire had burned more than 16,000 acres. Nearby villages were evacuated, the Spanish Defense Ministry deployed aerial and land reinforcements, and firefighters had been sent from neighboring regions.

Miquel Buch, the Catalonian interior minister, told reporters on Friday morning that while firefighters were making progress, the day would prove particularly challenging as temperatures were expected to stay above 40 degrees Celsius.

“We’re facing the worst day of this heat wave,” Mr. Buch said, noting that the fire could destroy as many as 50,000 acres if not brought under control.

The Iberian Peninsula has a history of deadly forest fires, including one in Portugal two years ago that killed more than 60 people, most of whom were trapped in their cars after the flames cut off a road on which they were traveling. That summer, a fire in the Spanish province of León destroyed almost 62,000 acres, and an additional 35 people died that October in separate fires in Portugal and northwestern Spain.

France remained on high alert on Friday, as temperatures reached a record 111.7 degrees Fahrenheit (44.3 degrees Celsius) in the southern town of Carpentras, surpassing a record set in 2003. But that record was broken a short time later on Friday when the nearby village of Villevieille reported a temperature of 113.2 Fahrenheit (45.1 Celsius). Two hours later, it was bypassed again by the temperature in Gallargues-le-Montueux, which reached 114.62 Fahrenheit (45.9 Celsius).

Four southern regions were placed on an unusual red alert, the country’s highest. Government officials warned people to stay indoors, especially children, and to avoid exercising in the heat. In Paris, dozens of fire hydrants had been opened overnight on Wednesday.

Parisians bathed in the murky waters of the Canal de l’Ourcq in the city’s northeast and in the fountains at Trocadéro across from the Eiffel Tower, and they took to the city’s northern parks until late into the night: anything to escape the heat. The Buttes Chaumont park remained open all night, and many people took advantage, while swimming pools also extended their open hours.

Sitting on a bench in the Jardin des Plantes in the center of Paris, Corinne Boileau, 54, said she was worried to see such intense heat so early in the season.

“I left my home this morning equipped as if I was going to the desert,” Ms. Boileau said, rubbing her leg with a bottle of ice water.

While daytime temperatures have been extreme, some nighttime temperatures have also hit records. That pattern can be lethal, because it deprives the body of the recovery period that normally comes after sunset.

The French cities of Nantes, Limoges, Poitiers and Toulouse all recorded their hottest nights ever on Thursday.

France’s scorching temperatures could play a role in Friday’s highly anticipated Women’s World Cup quarterfinal match between the United States and France in Paris, though a 9 p.m. kickoff time is expected to moderate the worst of the conditions. France’s coach, Corinne Diacre, and its captain, Amandine Henry, were asked about the high temperatures several times in their final news conference before the game.

“We know that it’s very hot at the moment but you can’t moan about that,” Ms. Henry said. “It’s the same for both sides.”

The French authorities have sought to protect children from the heat, closing schools in 225 towns and suspending more than 4,000 classes. Important middle-school examinations have already been pushed forward into next week, when cooler temperatures are expected.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe urged people to watch out for vulnerable neighbors.

“A few days ago, some may have thought that we were doing too much, that we were exaggerating our capacity to foresee and make decisions ahead of the situation,” Mr. Philippe said. “I think that the intensity of the phenomenon we’ve been seeing since yesterday, today and until tomorrow, shows that there was no overreaction but rather necessary preparation.”

In Germany, the authorities warned on Friday that drinking water reserves were running dangerously low after days of high temperatures. In the country’s west and southwest, officials asked residents to refrain from washing cars, watering lawns and filling swimming pools. Anyone found wasting water could face a fine of 1,000 euros, or about $ 1,140, in some places, officials warned.

Several wildfires had broken out in the state of Brandenburg, Berlin’s region. Firefighters were still working to extinguish pockets of a blaze that have been burning since Monday.

Source: NYT > World News

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