Heatwaves deaths in Spain and Portugal approach 2,000

·2-min read
A woman pictured in Madrid last Friday.  (REUTERS)
A woman pictured in Madrid last Friday. (REUTERS)

Spain and Portugal have reported more than 1,900 deaths related to the heatwave that has gripped Europe.

More than 850 have died in Spain due to the high temperatures between 10 July, when temperatures reached 43C near Seville, and 18 July, according to official figures.

While the head of Portugal’s health authority told Reuters on Tuesday that there were more than 1,000 excess deaths due to the heatwave from 7 July to 18 July.

Extreme temperatures have gripped the continent starting in Spain and Portugal before moving north to France and the UK, which saw surpassed 40C for the first time, with several places breaking the previous record of 38.7C measured in Cambridge in 2019.

Extreme heat is dubbed the silent killer and is particularly a risk for the elderly because of underlying medical conditions, and young children who struggle to regulate their temperature.

But it can also affect those deemed less vulnerable. In the UK officials declared a national heatwave emergency for the first time last week warning that even fit and healthy people were at risk of death.

The total European death toll of the heatwave will take a while to establish, with countries less used to extreme heat, such as the UK unable to immediately attribute excess deaths to high temperatures.

It would not be the first time that the heat has led to death across Europe.

In 2003, 15,000 people died due to high temperatures in France, with mortuaries running out of space and temporary centres set up in refrigerated lorries. Some 2,000 people also died in the UK and Portugal, while 3,000 died in Italy, 1,500 in the Netherlands and 300 in Germany.

Climate scientists have warned that heatwaves in Europe will only become more frequent, longer and more severe if climate change is able to continue unabated.

Greenhouse gases emitted mainly from burning fossil fuels are heating the planet and making such extreme temperatures more likely.

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