UK breaks historic temperature record

The hottest day in history was marred by wildfires and travel chaos

Tuesday’s temperature exceeded 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in Britain for the first time on record; the historic day is marked by an increasing number of victims, a « huge thrust” in the fires and the chaos of travel.

What was officially the hottest night ever (with mercury reaching 25.8°C) was followed by the hottest day: at 12:50 p.m., the Met office recorded 40.2°C at Heathrow Airport.

The unprecedented heat wave, which has already been treated as a national emergency, led to a sharp increase in the number of fires in the country’s capital on Tuesday, some of them being described as « important.”

« London firefighters have just declared a major incident in response to a huge outbreak of fires in the capital today. It’s essential: London firefighters are under immense pressure», Mayor Sadiq Khan wrote on Twitter.

While the National Health Service (NHS) warns of inevitable heat-related casualties, several people have already fallen victim to heat-related recklessness.

Since Saturday, at least five people have drowned in open water, mostly teenagers.

Extreme temperatures have led to transportation chaos. Rail operators and car group RAC have called on passengers and motorists to avoid traveling unless it is « absolutely necessary.” For those still deciding to travel, warnings have been issued. The RAC said it anticipates a 20% increase in the number of car breakdowns.

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Network Rail has introduced speed restrictions, saying that due to temporary speed restrictions journeys will take significantly longer, with a « high probability” cancellations, delays and last minute changes.

Indeed, on Tuesday, rail traffic on a large number of lines was suspended.

Among the many travel advisories issued on Monday and Tuesday, Network Rail announced its own record related to heat waves.

« Our hottest rail recorded yesterday was 62°C, in Suffolk! Rail temperature can be approximately 20°C higher than air temperature, causing it to expand, bend and break, » It said.

Extreme temperatures pose a risk not only to iron rails but, apparently, to some other constructions. The chains of the 135-year-old Hammersmith Bridge in London can be seen wrapped in a sheet of silver insulation which is supposed to prevent them from overheating. Chains should be kept below 13 degrees Celsius in summer. If any of them reach 18C, safety engineers will have to close the bridge to cyclists and pedestrians. The bridge, which was completely closed for two years until recently, remains closed to all vehicular traffic pending repairs.

Almost all of Europe is now suffering from extreme temperatures, with Spain and Portugal reporting more than 1,000 heat-related deaths in the past week. In the UK, as well as neighboring France, temperatures are expected to calm down on Wednesday.


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