Spain, Portugal swelter as April temperature records broken

By Mariano Valladolid

CORDOBA, Spain (Reuters) - Mainland Spain and Portugal have broken temperature records for April, as the Iberian neighbours swelter in an early-season heatwave that has exacerbated a long drought in some regions.

Spain's southern city of Cordoba registered 38.8 Celsius (101.8 Fahrenheit) at its airport on Thursday, beating the previous record of 38.6 C in the eastern city of Elche in 2011, weather agency AEMET said on Friday.

Spain's absolute April record remains the 40.2 C reached in 2013 on Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands.

In neighbouring Portugal, the temperature in the central town of Mora reached 36.9 C, breaking the record of 36.0 C set in April 1945, its weather agency said.

Temperatures started dropping on Friday in Portugal but the heatwave persisted in parts of Spain.

On Friday, Madrid opened its urban "beach" - a series of splash fountains along the Manzanares river - a month earlier than usual.

"Just imagine how summer is going to be if we are having this much heat in spring," said Patricia Solozaga as her daughter Sofia played happily under the jets of water.

AEMET forecast cooler weather from Saturday.

The Iberian Peninsula is suffering a long-running drought, with an almost 25% drop in rainfall since October on top of the previous year being one of Spain's driest on record.

That has contributed to earlier-than-usual wildfires, stoking fears of a repeat of last summer's extreme wave of fires, which was widely attributed to climate change.

Authorities in Portugal have meanwhile put two municipalities, Proenca-A-Nova in the centre and Tavira in the south on extreme alert for wildfires.

(Reporting by Emma Pinedo and Andrei Khalip; Additional reporting by Elena Rodriguez and Guillermo Martinez; editing by John Stonestreet)