PARIS/ROME – Tourists in Rome and Paris scaled back their sightseeing in sweltering temperatures on Tuesday, dousing themselves at fountains and cooling down with ice cream as a heatwave continued in continental Europe.
“With this hot sun we try and keep to the cooler places,” said Fari, a Spanish tourist to the Italian capital, speaking by the Trevi fountain.
“From 8 o’clock we are out looking at Rome, and from midday we eat ice cream,” he added.
The temperature had already reached 31 degrees Celsius (88 Fahrenheit) early in the morning with high levels of humidity.
In Paris, locals and tourists stripped down to paddle in the Trocadero fountains by the Eiffel Tower.
“It’s really, really uncomfortable right now. The heat is really high, I think it’s over 35 degrees. So for us, doing a tour of two hours and a half, three hours, is really, really difficult,” said 32-year-old Argentinean tour guide to the city Ayelen Rozitchner.
French forecaster Meteo France issued an orange alert, the second highest level of weather warning, projecting highs of 34 degrees in the French capital, and up to 39 degrees elsewhere.
On Monday the government announced it would suspend exams sat by 14- and 15-year-olds, prompting accusations from the opposition that it was overreacting.
“This isn’t scaremongering,” Health Minister Agnes Buzyn told a news conference.
“I’m asking everyone to take responsibility for themselves, their family and their neighbors and to avoid a backlog in emergency rooms due to people taking unnecessary risks.”
The heat wave has revived memories in France of August 2003, when the searing heat overwhelmed hospitals and caused the deaths of some 15,000 people, mostly the elderly.
The government says much progress has been made since. Authorities in Paris are setting up “cool rooms” in municipal buildings, opening pools for late-night swimming and installing extra drinking fountains.
The heatwave is also affecting Spain, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium.
In Germany, meteorologist Andreas Friedrich said the German weather service had issued heat warnings based on the felt air temperature, which incorporates how people feel when they are clothed and exposed to the sun.
The service expects record felt air temperatures on Wednesday in the southwest of Germany of some 43 degrees.
“That means extreme thermal stress. And that means being very cautious, avoid physical activities during the day, be in the shade, and of course drink a lot of liquids,” Friedrich said.
At the coastal town of Eloro in Sicily, 41 cars were engulfed in flames on Monday after a fire broke out close to a car park where beachgoers had left their vehicles.
The fire brigade said it was not clear what caused it but hot temperatures and dry terrain caused the fire to spread rapidly.