A new temperature record for the month of June was set in Germany on Wednesday, as France and Italy also sweltered in a heatwave affecting large swathes of Europe.
The record was broken at 2:50 pm (1250 GMT) in the town of Coschen on the German-Polish border, as the mercury rose to 38.6 degrees Celsius, the German Weather Service (DWD) said.
Prior to Wednesday, the highest temperature ever recorded in Germany in this month was 38.5 degrees on June 27-28, 1947, in the western town of Buehlertal.
The Red Cross has warned that heatwaves can have catastrophic consequences. On Tuesday it pointed to the year 2003, when an estimated 70,000 people died in Europe during a heatwave.
The DWD said perceived temperatures, taking humidity and other factors into account, could reach 43 degrees between Karlsruhe and Freiburg as a result of little wind and cloud.
Germany's all-time heat record of 40.3 degrees was recorded on July 5, 2015 in Kitzingen, Bavaria. The DWD did not expect temperatures to soar past that level, but it said it could not rule it out. In France, Emmanuel Demael from state weather service Meteo France told newspaper Le Parisien that the record of 44.1 degrees, set during the deadly 2003 heatwave, could be "under threat" this year.
Temperatures were expected to climax on Thursday and Friday, reaching between 40 and 42 degrees in much of the inland south and even higher in some areas, according to Meteo France.
In the Paris suburbs of Ivry-sur-Seine and Vitry-sur-Seine and the suburban town of Melun, authorities decided to close all schools on Thursday and Friday.
More school closures were announced elsewhere France. In the Essonne area west of Paris, parents were being advised to keep primary school children at home if possible.
The Education Ministry was unable to say how many schools would be closed nationwide as the decision was up to headmasters and local authorities.
Paris police meanwhile extended to Thursday a ban on older vehicles in the city and inner suburbs due to high levels of air pollution accompanying the heatwave.
According to Meteo France, all-time heat records were beaten in several mountain locations. In Nice, the overnight temperature low of 26 degrees was the hottest ever, FranceInfo reported.
In Italy, the heat was also expected to get worse on Thursday. Weather website IlMeteo.it said temperatures would reach 42-43 degrees in the north-western region of Piedmont.
The Italian air force, which is also responsible for weather forecasts, indicated that the mercury would rise to 43 degrees on Thursday in the Piedmont province of Alessandria. The health ministry issued heatwave alerts for six cities on Thursday, including the tourist hotspots of Rome and Florence. For Friday, the alert was extended to 16 cities, including Milan, Venice and Naples.
In Spain, record highs are expected in Zaragoza in the north-east of the country, Logrono in the province of La Rioja and in the capital Madrid, among others, the newspaper El Pais reported.
Holidaymakers in Majorca and the other Balearic Islands were sweating in temperatures of around 35 degrees. It was a bit cooler on the Canary Islands and in Barcelona.
According to data from the Spanish state weather service Aemet, 30.3 degrees was already measured on Wednesday in the municipality of Arroyo del Ojanco in Andalusia at 7 am (0500 GMT).
The heatwave should peak at the weekend when in some parts of the country values of up to 44 degrees are expected, Aemet spokesman Fernando Garcia said.
The weather was unusually warm even further north in Denmark.A weather station in Assens on the island of Funen reported a so-called tropical night - meaning the temperature did not fall under 20 degrees Celsius overnight to Wednesday. It was the earliest tropical night registered in the country in 19 years, the Danish Meteorological Institute reported.
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