June 28, 2019 / 12:10 PM / 4 months ago

France braces for record 45 Celsius as Europe melts

* Previous French all-time record of 44.1C set in 2003

* 2015-19 set to be world’s hottest five-year period

* Two people die from heatwave in France

* Wildfire rages on in Catalonia

By Inti Landauro and Emma Pinedo

PARIS/MADRID, June 28 (Reuters) - France steeled itself on Friday for its hottest day since records began as the death toll rose from a heatwave suffocating swathes of Europe.

The World Meteorological Organization said 2019 was on track to be among the world’s hottest years, and that 2015-2019 would then be the hottest five-year period on record.

The heatwave, it said, was “absolutely consistent” with extremes linked to the impact of greenhouse gas emissions.

By midday the mercury had already risen above 40 Celsius in several parts of southern France, and was expected to spike past the record high of 44.1C (111.4 Fahrenheit) hit in August 2003 — a temperature more typical of Saudi Arabia.

Four administrative departments were placed on red alert, signalling temperatures of “dangerous intensity”.

Temperatures in parts of Spain were expected to hit a new June record of 43C on Friday.

Since 1975, Spain has registered nine heatwaves in June, five of which were in the last decade, according to the Spanish meteorological office.

In Catalonia, northeast Spain, wildfires were raging across 60 sq km (23 sq miles) of land, but firefighters said that area could quadruple. Farmers were asked to stop all work across the region for 48 hours.

In the city of Valladolid in central Spain, a man of 93 collapsed and died due to the heat, police said.

And in a small town outside the southern city of Cordoba, a 17-year-old died of heat-related effects after jumping into a swimming pool to cool off after a day working in the fields, regional health authorities said.

In France, one boy was seriously hurt when he was thrown back by a jet of water from a fire hydrant. Some 4,000 schools were either closed or running a limited service to help working parents unable to stay at home.

French families with elderly relatives who were ill or living alone were advised to call or visit them twice a day and take them to cool places.

The greater Paris region, Ile de France, had already banned more than half of cars from its roads as the stifling heat worsened air pollution, the toughest restriction provided for — although all cars were to be allowed to leave the city as school holidays began. The cities of Lyon, Strasbourg and Marseille have also restricted traffic.

The unusually high temperatures are forecast to last until early next week. (Reporting by Inti Landauro and Richard Lough in Paris, Emma Pinedo and Paul Day in Madrid, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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