France has broken its all-time record temperature amid a punishing heatwave that has spread across Europe killing several people, including a young farm worker in Spain.
In the southern town of Villevieille in the Gard département, the mercury reached 45.1 degrees Celsius on Friday, the highest count since detailed records began in 1947.
In Carpentras, in the Vaucluse area, the temperature rose to 44.3C.
Both tallies beat the previous record for France of 44.1C set in August 2003 in the southern region of Montpellier and Nimes.
The average temperature had hit almost 35C on Wednesday, already a record for the month of June.
Edouard Philippe, the prime minister, announced that 4,000 schools in France would be closed on Friday due to the extreme heat.
Four départements in southern France – Herault, Gard, Vaucluse and Bouches-du-Rhone – the level of alert has been raised from orange to red, a first since the warning system was introduced in 2004.
Over in Spain, a 17-year old farm worker died after complaining of feeling faint while helping harvest wheat in the southern Andalusia region.
He dipped in a swimming pool to cool off but collapsed with convulsions and was rushed to hospital in the town of Cordoba where he later died, according to the regional government.
Also in Spain, a 93-year-old man is thought to have died of heatstroke on the street in the northern city of Valladolid, said police.
A wildfire in southern Catalonia continued to rage on what the regional government predicted would be a “critical day”, as temperatures exceeded 40C outside coastal areas.
More than 350 firefighters, including military personnel, battled the flames, which remained out of control for a third day, having started after a heap of farm manure spontaneously ignited amidst the heat and high winds.
Catalan interior minister Miquel Buch called on residents of nearby small towns, located on banks of the Ebro river between Lleida and Tarragona, to take “maximum precaution” against the “extreme risk”.
The civil protection authority evacuated 52 people on Thursday, the majority of whom live near Flix, home to a large chemical plant which had been the cause of an earlier environmental disaster when it leaked.
Around 30 of the evacuees, including a handful of British and German residents, had to spent the night at a school in the village, according to Spanish media.
Initial estimates on Thursday suggested that the wildfire may eventually destroy 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of woodland and farmland in Catalonia, which would make it the largest fire to affect the region in over two decades.
Elsewhere in Catalonia, an 80-year-old woman of French nationality died on a beach near Barcelona on Friday morning. Witnesses said that the woman was swimming in the water when she collapsed unconscious.
Heatwave-linked deaths have also been reported in Italy, France and Germany, mainly among the elderly. Four people have drowned so far in France this week, and in the UK a 12-year-old girl drowned in a river near Manchester.
France’s health minister and UK police warned people to swim only in authorised areas.
France has also seen a rise in so-called street-pooling, or illegally opening fire hydrants. A six-year-old child is in life-threatening condition after being projected “several metres into the air” from high-pressure water jet from a cracked fire hydrant in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, according to French media.
With temperatures due to continue soaring on Saturday, traffic restrictions have been imposed in several French cities, including Paris, Lyon, Marseille and Strasbourg, with the most-polluting cars banned from the roads.
In Villevieille, British tourist Matthew Crawford from Cornwall said the heat was unbearable.
"We can hardly walk," he told AFP. "We don’t know what to do anymore. We can’t stay in the camping car with the engine and air conditioning on all day." He added: "We wanted sun and heat but frankly this is unbearable."
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, warned that such extreme weather events could become the norm as a result of global warming.
"We will need to change our set-up, our way of working, build differently," he said while on a visit to Tokyo.
Italy put 16 cities under alerts for high temperatures, and civil security services distributed water to tourists at top landmarks around Rome baking in unseasonable heat.
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In Berlin, a police unit trained water cannons normally used for rioters onto city trees to cool them down.
In France, the heatwave is expected to come to an end on Sunday for most of of the country bar the South East, where it is forecast to last until Wednesday.