London mayor: Heat wave brings surge in number of city fires
LONDON (AP) — The mayor of London says a heat wave that has brought temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) is causing a “huge surge” in the number of fires in the city.
Mayor Sadiq Khan said Tuesday the fire service is under “immense pressure.”
The blazes include a grass fire in Wennington on the eastern edge of the city that is being tackled by 100 firefighters.
The London Fire Brigade said it had declared a “major incident,” which means it can call on resources from other emergency services.
The U.K. Met Office registered a provisional reading of 40.2 degrees Celsius (104.4 degrees Fahrenheit) at Heathrow Airport in early afternoon — breaking the record set just an hour earlier and with hours of intense sunshine still to go. Before Tuesday, the highest temperature recorded in Britain was 38.7 C (101.7 F), set in 2019.
As the nation watched the mercury rise with a combination of horror and fascination, the forecaster warned temperatures could go higher still.
The sweltering weather has disrupted travel, health care and schools in a country not prepared for such extremes. Many homes, small businesses and even public buildings, including hospitals, don’t even have air conditioning, a reflection of how unusual such heat is in the country better known for rain and mild temperatures.
The intense heat since Monday has damaged the runway at London’s Luton airport, forcing it to shut for several hours, and warped a main road in eastern England, leaving it looking like a “skatepark,” police said. Major train stations were shut or near-empty on Tuesday, as trains were canceled or ran at low speeds out of concern rails could buckle.
Electric fans cooled the traditional mounted troops of the Household Cavalry as they stood guard in central London in heavy ceremonial uniforms. Other guards reduced their duties. The capital’s Hyde Park, normally busy with walkers, was eerily quiet — except for the long lines to take a dip in the Serpentine lake.
“I’m going to my office because it is nice and cool,’’ said geologist Tom Elliott, 31, after taking a swim. “I’m cycling around instead of taking the Tube.’’
A huge chunk of England, from London in the south to Manchester and Leeds in the north, remained under the country’s first “red” warning for extreme heat Tuesday, meaning there is danger of death even for healthy people.
Such dangers could be seen in Britain and around Europe. At least six people were reported to have drowned across the U.K. in rivers, lakes and reservoirs while trying to cool off. Meanwhile, nearly 750 heat-related deaths have been reported in Spain and neighboring Portugal in the heat wave there.