Europe is grappling with extreme weather conditions, from rising temperatures in southern Italy to powerful storms in Croatia and Italy, piling pressure on emergency services and residents and challenging holidaymakers looking for a bit of summer recovery.
Temperatures have consistently exceeded 40 degrees Celsius this week in southern and eastern European countries, and for some areas such as Sicily, there is no respite. The Italian island was baking at 46 degrees Celsius on Saturday, according to the Met Officewith night temperatures of 29 degrees offering little in the way of comfort.
On the Greek island of Rhodes, firefighters continued their battle to bring the fires under control, according to local media relationships. Thousands of people have been evacuated from homes and hotels after fires engulfed much of the island and Greek firefighters have warned the situation could get worse due to bad weather, according to the BBC reported.
In Malta, residents have been forced to sleep outside and in cars with the air conditioning on, after a sixth day of power outages left people without refrigeration, fans or cooling systems. Residents have described it as « a summer from hell, » reported the Malta Times.
Emergency Response Coordination Center (ERCC) of the European Commission She said that high temperature red alerts continued to be in effect over southern Italy, southwestern Croatia and western Serbia.
Europe is not alone. This year saw both the hottest June on record globally and the hottest day on record, recorded on July 6. The global average temperature was 17.08 degrees Celsius that day, according to the EU’s climate monitoring service Copernicus.
« Humans are 100% behind the upward trend, » said climate scientist Friederike Otto of Imperial College London. These hotter global average temperatures are exactly what forecasts have shown would happen in a world with rising levels of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, she told the BBC.
Health workers are urging people to take steps to avoid overheating, such as staying in cool areas at peak times of the day, drinking lots of water and watching out for vulnerable neighbours.
« The climate crisis is now one of the main drivers of human health outcomes, » a spokesperson for the European Commission’s health directorate DG SANTE told POLITICO, adding that « heatwaves can cause significant stress on health. »
People most at risk include older people, those with chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, and people who work outdoors, such as in construction and agriculture. DG SANTE urged people to follow the World Health Organisation guidelines during heat waves.
Some holidaymakers are already changing their summer habits to avoid the heat. Mediterranean destinations have seen a 10% drop in visitors intending to travel there compared to last year, according to the European Travel Commission.
Meanwhile, destinations such as the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Ireland and Denmark are experiencing a surge in popularity. « This can be attributed to travelers seeking less crowded destinations and warmer temperatures, » the ETC said.
In addition to the rising heat, other extreme weather events have hit Europe.
Just days after parts of Croatia received a red alert for heat and the country faced one of the worst storms in recent history, high winds and torrential rains hit large parts of the country, killing four people, two in the Zagreb area, and causing damage to critical infrastructure and homes in 14 counties. More than 100 people were injured and 2,000 buildings damaged across the country, the reported ERCC.
The Croatian government is facing calls to answer why early warning text messages have not been issued through SRUUK, the country’s early warning and crisis management system, to warn people of the impending storm and encourage them to take precautionary measures.
While Damir Trut, director of the Civil Protection Directorate, said that the text messages were not issued because it was only an orange alert; the State Hydrometeorological Association (DHMZ) has denied this, saying the alert was raised to full red alert after 3pm on July 19, reported Total Croatia. This was stated by Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic Index that the system was not working properly.
Parts of northern Italy also faced torrential rains, hail the size of tennis balls and flash flooding. The storms caused electrical damage and set fire to a house, he said Republicwhile strong winds uprooted trees and dismantled properties.
The thunderstorms began on Thursday evening and should continue until Saturday, with an orange alert issued by the Risk Monitoring Functional Center of the Lombardy Region.
Elsewhere, severe storms also claimed the lives of one person in the Slovenian town of Bled where at least three people were seriously injured. More than 300 people were evacuated and 1,000 buildings damaged.
Another person died in Bosnia and more than 20 people were injured. And in Serbia, according to the ERCC, 20 people were evacuated.
The center also issued a flood warning on Slovenia’s Pesnica River, in Gocova, in the north-east of the country.
This article has been updated.