France braced on Monday for what could become one of the hottest days ever recorded with temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius in coastal regions cherished by tourists, as wildfires intensified in the west and south.
“The peak of this heat wave is expected Monday,” MeteoFrance said in a statement, forecasting temperatures between 40 and 42 degrees – and “higher in some local areas” across France’s western Atlantic coast.
“The day could become one of the hottest ever recorded in France,” it said, adding that temperatures could edge towards an unprecedented 40 degrees in the Brittany port of Brest in the country’s northwest.
It will become clear later on Monday whether a new national all-day average temperature record, now standing at 29.4 degrees reached from the historic heat waves of 2003 and 2019, will be set.
Thick plumes of smoke could be seen from famous Atlantic coast beaches close to the towering Pyla sand dune near Arcachon as strong winds and high temperatures kept fuelling wildfires. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin sent three additional water-bomber planes to the region.
Fires in the region have spread over 14,000 hectares (34,595 acres), the local state prefecture said in a tweet on Monday morning, adding that there were reports of injuries so far.
France on Sunday issued red alerts, the highest possible, for several regions, with residents urged “to be extremely vigilant”.
Britain on course for hottest day on record
Britain was on course for its hottest day on record on Monday with temperatures forecast to hit 40C for the first time, forcing train companies to cancel services and some schools to close while ministers urged the public to stay at home.
Much of Europe is baking in a heatwave that has pushed temperatures into the mid-40s Celsius (over 110 Fahrenheit) in some regions, with wildfires raging across tinder-dry countryside in Portugal, Spain and France.
Britain’s government triggered a “national emergency” alert as temperatures on Monday and Tuesday were forecast to surpass the 38.7C (102F) recorded in the Cambridge University Botanic Garden in 2019.
By midday, readings of almost 35C were being recorded in southern England.
“We’ve got a difficult 48 hours coming,” Kit Malthouse, a minister in charge of government coordination, told BBC radio. He will later chair a meeting of the government’s emergency response committee.
The national rail network urged passengers not to travel unless necessary and said some services – including a key route between northeastern England and London – would not run during parts of Tuesday.
London’s metro network imposed temporary speed restrictions, meaning it would run a reduced service with journeys taking longer than normal. It urged commuters to stay at home.
Jake Kelly from Network Rail said he hoped normal operations would resume on Wednesday, when temperatures are forecast to fall, but that would depend on “the damage that the weather does to the infrastructure over the next couple of days”.
The government urged schools to stay open but many were due to close earlier than usual, normal uniform demands were ditched and end-of-term sports days were cancelled, Some schools were shut, resorting to lockdown-style online lessons.