BY JOVANA GEC
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — No wonder it’s been dubbed “Lucifer.”
A relentless heat wave that gripped parts of Europe this week has sent temperatures soaring to record highs for several days, causing at least two deaths and prompting authorities to issue weather alerts.
Extreme heat in Italy, and parts of France and Spain and the Balkans, has led to dozens of wildfires, damaged crops and fueled power and water consumption. Authorities in some areas issued traffic restrictions and banned work in the open in the hottest part of the day as temperatures reached more than 40 C (104 F).
Spain’s national weather service on Saturday issued an emergency warning for high temperatures for 31 of the country’s 50 provinces as forecasts predicted temperatures of up to 44 C (111.2 F).
Although this part of Europe is used to scorching summers, meteorologists have warned that such high temperatures lasting over several days aren’t that common. Serbian authorities have said the hot spell came from Africa.
“It is just too much,” said 52-year-old real estate agent Sasa Jovanovic, from Belgrade, the Serbian capital. “Sometimes it feels as if I cannot breathe.”
In the Alpine nation of Slovenia, authorities reported earlier this week the first-ever “tropical night” at 1,500 meters (4,920 feet) in the mountains, meaning temperatures were higher than 20 C (68 F) during the night.
Authorities in other countries urged people to stay indoors and drink a lot of water. The public health institute in Belgrade issued heat instructions, telling people to keep wet towels on windows if there is no air conditioning, and avoid physical strain and alcohol.
In Croatia, authorities have appealed to the thousands of tourists vacationing along the country’s Adriatic coast to be careful on the beaches and while traveling.
The streets of Montenegro’s capital, Podgorica, and other towns, were empty on the weekend, sending people flocking to the country’s Adriatic coast. Authorities there issued a fire alert because of dry weather.
Some 15 wildfires have been reported in Albania, and dozens of others throughout the region. Hot and dry weather has scorched crops amid fears of water shortages in Italy and Serbia as authorities appealed for care in consumption.
In Romania, police banned heavy traffic on major roads in daylight hours during the weekend because of the heat wave, while trains slowed down. A train service in southern Serbia also was delayed earlier this week after tracks buckled in the heat.
Romania reported two heat-related deaths — a 45-year-old man collapsed and died Friday while working in a field in the northeast, while a 60-year-old man died of a heart attack in the street in an eastern port Thursday.
In neighboring Hungary, the state railway company said it would distribute water at busy terminals. At the Budapest Zoo, Beliy and Seriy, a pair of 2-year-old polar bear cubs, were given huge chunks of ice and freezing-cold watermelons to help them withstand the weather conditions.
Alison Mutler in Bucharest, Romania; Predrag Milic in Podgorica, Montenegro; Joseph Wilson in Madrid, and Pablo Gorondi in Budapest, Hungary, contributed to this report.
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