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Monday, August 10, 1998 Published at 18:38 GMT 19:38 UK

World: Europe

Scorching heat kills 48

Rehydration fluid is administered at Nicosia General Hospital

The authorities in Cyprus say 48 people are known to have died from the effects of a heat wave which has scorched the eastern Mediterranean island for the past week.

Hospitals have been calling in additional staff and making extra space available for the more than 1,000 people who have needed medical treatment. Most have been afflicted by dehydration and sunstroke.

Daytime temperatures have repeatedly topped 42ºC in the capital, Nicosia, and coastal regions are also experiencing much hotter weather than usual.

But forecasters now expect a drop in temperature of about three to four degrees by Wednesday, which could end the hottest spell in Cyprus for 25 years.

[ image: Tourists at coastal areas take refuge from the heat in the sea]
Tourists at coastal areas take refuge from the heat in the sea
Most of the victims have been elderly people with existing health problems, but the health ministry gave out a warning that the scorching heat was a health risk for everyone. It urged people to stay in the shade and drink plenty of liquids.

A BBC correspondent in the coastal resort of Limassol, Chris Drake, says that surprisingly few of the many thousands of tourists have suffered.

Doctors have suggested that the visitors have not even been trying to cope with the heat, staying in the sea or air conditioned hotel rooms instead.

During the peak tourists season about half a million foreigners visit the island.

It is also currently holiday time for the Cypriots. The island's annual summer holiday has just started, and most offices, factories and other industries are closed for the next two weeks.

Our correspondent says that many locals are planning to go abroad to cooler climates, or up into the island's Troudos Mountains, where the temperatures are far more hospitable.

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