Temperatures across Europe were expected to smash records this week as the current heat wave showed no signs of abating. While some enjoyed the sun, deaths and forest fires marred the increasingly tropical summer.
Experts are advising that people take more care in the sun as the mercury rises
Much of Europe continued to bake in tropical temperatures as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), in a heat wave that on Wednesday claimed its seventh victim since the start of the week.
Weather experts were predicting not only hot weather with bright sunshine but also rising humidity in Germany, bringing a sweaty and uncomfortable muggy edge to the heat wave as the 2006 summer looked set to beat the 2003 season which broke records, unleashed havoc and resulted in around 30,000 fatalities, half of them in France.
Meteorologists in Germany are warning their countrymen that Thursday could be the hottest day in the year at 38 C, and July as a whole could be the hottest month in a century.
The capital Berlin, in the east of the country, was already facing 32 C on Wednesday whereas its predecessor Bonn, in the western Rhine valley, was pushing 36 C.
Berlin shimmers in the heat
Local authorities were also warning Germans of rising ozone levels expected in the coming days and an increased threat of fires in the many wooded areas of the country.
In The Netherlands, two people succumbed to the heat on Tuesday during the opening day of an annual four-day walk in the eastern Nijmegen region, the Dutch news agency ANP reported. The heat wave eventually forced the cancellation of the event.
The heat is having a drastic effect on rivers
In France's southwest Bordeaux region, sweltering at 38 C, local authorities said two octogenarians fell victim to hyperthermia. An 85-year-old man died in hospital and a woman, 81, at her home.
Around a quarter of France was affected by the heat wave on Tuesday, predominately in the southwest.
French authorities, who were accused of reacting too slowly to the tragic 2003 heat wave, were leaving little to chance this year, and hospitals and retirement homes were on high alert.
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin planned to visit a Parisian retirement home on Wednesday to demonstrate the measures the government was taking to care for the population vulnerable to the sweltering temperatures.
In Spain, a 44-year-old man died of heat exhaustion at Orense, in the northwestern region of Galicia, regional officials said, after he had reportedly been working outside as temperatures hit 41.5 C.
Portugal is in flames again this summer
Temperatures soared to 41 C in some parts of southern Portugal and are expected to rise above normal levels over the coming days, the national weather office said. The soaring temperatures have been cited as the cause for the number of wild fires raging in six of mainland Portugal's 18 administrative districts: Aveiro, Beja, Guarda, Porto, Santarem and Viana do Castelo.
Britain, already suffering the hottest day of the year on Tuesday, was braced for its hottest day on record as forecasters predicted temperatures could reach 39 C in parts of England on Wednesday. The highest temperature ever recorded in Britain was 38.5 C in the southern county of Kent on August 10, 2003.
Brits are taking to the pool to cope
The London underground system, the oldest in the world, was a furnace on Tuesday with a record temperature of 47 C. Bus passengers fared even worse, with temperatures on buses in the City of London, the main financial district, reaching 52 C.
Local authorities in Britain poured gravel on roads to counteract the effects of melting asphalt, and at a zoo in Colchester, lions were given ice cubes flavored with blood.
Italy's main farmers' union said the country was suffering one of the worst droughts in 30 years with the situation in the north and the center particularly bad.
Water levels in the lakes of northern Italy have fallen to historic low levels, making the irrigation of crops difficult, the Coldiretti union said in a statement.