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Extreme weather live: heatwave red alerts expected for more cities in Italy; Greece wildfires spread


Red weather alerts expected for more Italian cities

The World Meteorological Organization says the heatwave in the northern hemisphere is set to intensify. An estimated 61,000 people may have died in heatwaves last year in Europe alone.

The EU’s emergency response coordination centre issued red alerts for high temperatures for most of Italy, north-eastern Spain, Croatia, Serbia, southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro.

In Italy, temperatures on the island of Sardinia hit 44C (112F) and Rome topped out at 40C (104F) on Tuesday, as the health ministry issued red weather alerts for 20 of the country‘s 27 main cities, with the number expected to rise to 23 on Wednesday.

A woman cools off at a water fountain amid high temperatures, in Rome, Italy
A woman cools off at a water fountain amid high temperatures, in Rome, Italy. Photograph: Giuseppe Lami/EPA

Key events

Helena Smith

Helena Smith

Helena Smith, the Guardian’s correspondent in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, reports from Athens

Greek meteorologists are warning that the worst is still to come as the country braces for a second heat wave in as many weeks.

While gale force winds, which have been fanning fires, are expected to subside climatic conditions that are both extremely hot and dry will ensure that the danger of wildfires persists.

Leading Greek weatherperson, Theodoros Yiannaros, told state-broadcaster ERT this morning:

Although the winds will recede from tomorrow [Thursday] this doesn’t mean that the danger of fires will lessen.

There will be a drop in danger perhaps tomorrow but during the weekend the risk will be very high … difficult times are ahead of us.

Temperatures are predicted to exceed 43C on Sunday, forecast to be a day hotter than any other so far this year.

Weather conditions are being likened to 2021 when Greece was hit by some of the worst forest fires in living memory.

Here are some more images from the wires of the wildfires that swept through forestland and towns north-west of Athens for a second day. The fires forced the evacuation of more than 1,000 children close to a Greek seaside resort.

Firefighters douse flames of a wildfire near the seaside town of Agioi Theodoroi, about 70km west of Athens
Firefighters douse flames of a wildfire near the seaside town of Agioi Theodoroi, about 70km west of Athens. Photograph: Valérie Gache/AFP/Getty Images
More than 1,000 children have been evacuated because of the wildfires near Athens, including some from the nearby village of Agios Charalampos
More than 1,000 children have been evacuated because of the wildfires near Athens, including some from the nearby village of Agios Charalampos Photograph: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images
A firefighting helicopter drops water as a wildfire hits at Panorama settlement near Agioi Theodoroi
A firefighting helicopter drops water as a wildfire hits at Panorama settlement near Agioi Theodoroi. Photograph: Valérie Gache/AFP/Getty Images

Tourists flocked to China’s scenic Flaming Mountains to experience searing high temperatures amid punishing heatwaves that have scorched much of the northern hemisphere.

Wearing broad-brimmed hats and umbrellas for added protection, tourists took selfies by a 12-metre-tall thermometer that displayed a real-time surface temperature of 80C (176F), Chinese state television showed on Wednesday.

Each summer, curious tourists gather at the Flaming Mountains on the northern rim of the Turpan Depression in Xinjiang to admire their corrugated slopes of brown-red sandstone and feel the super-charged heat emanating from the ground.

In recent days, temperatures in Xinjiang and other parts of Asia have shattered records.

On Sunday, a remote township in the Turpan Depression registered a maximum temperature of 52.2C, smashing China’s national record of 50.3C that was also set in the basin in 2015.

On that day, the oasis city of Turpan west of the Flaming Mountains recorded temperatures of more than 45C at 31 local weather stations, with five of them breaking above 50C, according to state media on Wednesday.

Reuters

Here’s some pictures of people trying to cope with the heatwave, including a man trying to cool off in Rome on Tuesday, when temperatures topped 40C (104F). Red alerts for high temperatures have been issued for most of Italy.

A man cools off at a fountain in Piazza del Popolo in Rome
A man cools off at a fountain in Piazza del Popolo in Rome on Tuesday. Photograph: Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images

And in Phoenix, Arizona, a woman drinks a bottle of water while walking in “The Zone”, a vast homeless encampment where hundreds of people reside, during a record heatwave in the US state – the 19th day of temperatures of at least 110F (43.3C)

A woman drinks a bottle of water while walking in ‘The Zone’, a vast homeless encampment, in Phoenix, Arizona
A woman drinks a bottle of water while walking in ‘The Zone’, a vast homeless encampment, in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday. Photograph: Patrick T Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

Tuesday marked the 19th day the city of Phoenix has been subjected to temperatures of at least 110F (43.3C) – the longest stretch of time spent in such brutal heat – as record-breaking summer weather continues to affect millions in the US and around the world.

The American city, which is the fifth biggest in the country, with a population of about 1.6 million that is expected to grow in the coming years, often ranks as the hottest or one of the hottest.

But pushing into new territory comes with amplified risks to human health, especially for those forced to endure the extreme conditions for longer periods of time. The previous record of 18 days at that temperature threshold was set in the city in 1974.

Read more:

VIDEO: Oppressive heatwave beats down on Rome.

In Rome, the thermometer is expected rise to 42°C, beating the previous record of 40.5°C set in August 2007, as heatwaves suffocate Europe pic.twitter.com/VMqzNODOiI

— AFP News Agency (@AFP) July 19, 2023

Family of Texas inmates call for air conditioning

A heatwave that has pushed temperatures well above 37.8C (100F) across much of Texas this summer has led family members of inmates calling for lawmakers to ensure that all of the state’s prisons are fully air conditioned.

“They’re cooking our inmates in the Texas prison system,” said Tona Southards Naranjo, who believes the death last month of her son, Jon Southards, was caused by excessive heat in his prison, the Estelle Unit in Huntsville.

Naranjo was one of more than 60 people who attended a rally outside the Texas Capitol on Tuesday.

Advocates and others have been highly critical of the lack of air conditioning in the nation’s largest prison system, alleging temperatures that often exceed 49C (120F) inside Texas prisons in the summer have been responsible for hundreds of inmate deaths in recent years.

Only about 30% of Texas’s 100 prison units are fully air-conditioned, with the rest having partial or no air conditioning. Texas has more than 128,000 inmates.

However, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice(TDCJ) says there have been no heat-related deaths in the state’s prisons since 2012. Officials are still investigating what caused Jon Southards’s death, said Amanda Hernandez, a TDCJ spokesperson.

At least eight other inmate deaths in recent weeks that advocates allege are heat-related were either due to cardiac arrest or other medical conditions, Hernandez said. The cause of some are still under investigation.

Staff at Athens tourist sites protest against heatwave working conditions

Staff at the Acropolis, Greece’s top tourist attraction, and other ancient sites in the country will stop work for four hours a day from Thursday in protest at working conditions during a heatwave, their union said.

Access to the Unesco-listed Acropolis had already been restricted for three days by the authorities from last Friday, but the measures were lifted on Monday as the thermometer dropped ahead of a new heatwave predicted from Thursday.

“Given the problems we have faced … in recent days, measures have been unanimously decided to protect the health of the security staff … as well as visitors,” the PEYFA union said.

A woman looks at the Acropolis as it is closed during a heatwave in Athens, Greece
A woman looks at the Acropolis as it is closed during a heatwave in Athens, Greece. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Temperatures have surpassed 45C (113F), according to the union.

The Acropolis, which has had a major rise in visitor numbers in recent months, is normally open from 8am to 8pm every day, but the work stoppage will operate from 4pm.

The authorities have in recent days taken measures to help visitors cope, with tens of thousands of bottles of water handed out and sunshades erected.

Greek wildfires burn into night

Two wildfires swept uncontrolled through forestland and towns north-west of Athens for a second day on Tuesday, Reuters reports, forcing more residents to flee their homes as authorities fought to stop the flames reaching an area with oil refineries.

One of the fire fronts stretched over 8km (five miles), according to witnesses and officials, burning homes and cars around the area of Mandra, west of the capital, which was blanketed by dense smoke.

“We are living a nightmare,” Mandra mayor Christos Stathis told Open TV. “Houses and properties are on fire.”

Late on Tuesday, the flames were headed toward the seaside town of Nea Peramos.

A man on a motorcycle looks on at a shipyard on fire in Mandra, west of Athens
A man on a motorcycle looks on at a shipyard on fire in Mandra, west of Athens, on Tuesday. In Greece, where a second heatwave is expected to hit on Thursday, three large wildfires burned outside Athens for a second day. Photograph: Petros Giannakouris/AP

The blaze, which broke out on Monday in the region of Dervenochoria, about 30km north of Athens, spread fast as it was fanned by erratic winds and reached Mandra on Tuesday, forcing people to flee and burning houses.

As of 20.36 GMT, the flames were raging unchecked. Five coastguard vessels and private boats were on standby off Elefsina, ready to assist an emergency evacuation.

Red weather alerts expected for more Italian cities

The World Meteorological Organization says the heatwave in the northern hemisphere is set to intensify. An estimated 61,000 people may have died in heatwaves last year in Europe alone.

The EU’s emergency response coordination centre issued red alerts for high temperatures for most of Italy, north-eastern Spain, Croatia, Serbia, southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro.

In Italy, temperatures on the island of Sardinia hit 44C (112F) and Rome topped out at 40C (104F) on Tuesday, as the health ministry issued red weather alerts for 20 of the country‘s 27 main cities, with the number expected to rise to 23 on Wednesday.

A woman cools off at a water fountain amid high temperatures, in Rome, Italy
A woman cools off at a water fountain amid high temperatures, in Rome, Italy. Photograph: Giuseppe Lami/EPA

Opening summary

This is the Guardian’s live coverage of the dangerous heatwaves and other extreme weather impacting people around the world, with me, Helen Sullivan.

Our top stories this morning: In Italy, the health ministry issued red weather alerts for 20 of the country’s 27 main cities on Tuesday, with the number expected to rise to 23 on Wednesday.

In Greece, two wildfires burned into the night through forestland and towns north-west of Athens on Tuesday, forcing more residents to flee their homes as authorities fought to stop the flames reaching an area with oil refineries.

We’ll have more on these and other developments in a moment.





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