Europe heatwave: Britain records highest-ever temperature of 40C; runways damaged, trains cancelled

UK heatwave

Pedestrians shelter from the sun on Westminster Bridge in London, Tuesday, July 19, 2022.

Photo : AP

London: The heatwave which has been battering Europe is intensifying, with Britain recording its highest ever temperature of 40 degrees Celsius. The extreme heat is causing widespread damage including in the form of scorched fields and damaged airport runways and train tracks.

The UK Met Office stated that it provisionally recorded the 40C temperature at 12.50 pm at London’s Heathrow Airport. If confirmed, this would surpass the previous record of 38.7C recorded in 2019.

Reports from the UK suggested that due to the extreme heat, many trains were cancelled, people ditched normally busy city centres, and authorities at zoos had a hard time keeping their animals cool.

“For the first time ever, 40 Celsius has provisionally been exceeded in the UK,” the Met Office said. “Temperatures are still climbing in many places, so remember to stay weather aware.”

Britain finds it difficult to keep key transport services on track in extreme heat or snow. It has now announced a state of “national emergency” over the unprecedented temperatures.

People crowd the beach in Brighton England Tuesday July 19 2022
People crowd the beach in Brighton, England, Tuesday July 19, 2022

Transport Minister Grant Shapps was quoted as saying that Britain would require many years before it is able to fully upgrade its infrastructure to cope with higher temperatures. The remarks came after extreme heat caused damage to at least two runways and some train tracks.

“We’ve seen a considerable amount of travel disruption,” Shapps was quoted as saying by the BBC. “Infrastructure, much of which was built from the Victorian times, just wasn’t built to withstand this type of temperature.”

The searing heatwave has already sparked wildfires across Europe.

Experts have pinned the blame on climate change for such extreme weather conditions and point out that more frequent extreme weather will only worsen in years to come.

“Let record-breaking UK temperatures and tragic deaths in Europe be the wake-up call the world needs to stop climate change from claiming any more lives,” said Tim Wainwright, chief executive of the charity WaterAid, was quoted as saying in an AFP report.