Extreme weather: From blankets on glaciers to ice creams for pandas, Europe finds new ways to deal with blistering heatwave

·2-min read

A relentless heatwave that is blistering Europe has left some of the Alps' oldest glaciers needing blanket cover to protect them from melting.

The Rhone Glacier in Switzerland is just one of the casualties of the extreme temperatures the continent has been experiencing over the past few days.

A spate of wildfires has seen firefighters battling blazes in Portugal, Spain and southern France - as well as in Turkey at the other end of the Mediterranean.

Water-dumping planes have been scrambled to help combat the worst of some of the wildfires.

Tourists have been evacuated from campsites in Gironde, France, where more than 2,700 hectares have been burnt so far, while temperatures are expected to exceed records in Portugal and Spain.

Madrid Zoo's giant panda Bing Xing enjoyed a watermelon ice lolly provided by keepers to keep him and other animals cool.

In addition to his daily ration of 50kg of fresh bamboo, Bing Xing, whose name means "star of ice", eagerly chewed on frozen fruit on a stick.

Predatory animals like lions or seals were offered 'lollies' made from beef or fish, depending on their diet. Zoo keepers also sprayed animals with water.

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In Portugal's southern Algarve region, popular with tourists, authorities blocked access to the Quinta do Lago luxury resort and golf course as thick plumes of smoke rose from an area next to it which had ignited due to high temperatures.

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Frightening fires break out as Portugal's temperatures climb to 46C

And in the central district of Leiria, north of Lisbon, where temperatures soared to 45C (113F), police were forced to block a major motorway due to a similar blaze.

Villagers who had not been evacuated, poured water on roofs of their homes to try to cool them and stop them catching fire.

Nearly all of mainland Portugal is on red alert for extreme heat conditions.

The World Meteorological Organisation has warned "human-caused climate change" is triggering droughts, and a UN report says the number of extreme wildfires is expected to increase 30% within the next 28 years.

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