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Last Updated: Monday, 27 June, 2005, 18:52 GMT 19:52 UK
South Europe wilts in heat surge
A girl cools off in a fountain in Rome, Italy
City dwellers are seeking respite wherever they can
Southern European countries have been taking emergency measures to minimise the impact of relentlessly soaring summer temperatures.

Two years ago a heatwave claimed the lives of thousands of elderly, damaging crops and setting forests alight.

Italy says an extra 20,000 people died during the 2003 heatwave, more than double the original figure.

Already temperatures have nudged 40C (104F) in southern Spain and are hovering just below in northern Italy.

Italian media report that seven people have died due to the intense heat in the north of the country.

An official government report by the Italian statistics institute, Istat, found that 20,000 more people died between July and September 2003 than in the same period a year earlier.

The 2003 heatwave claimed an estimated 15,000 lives in France - most of them elderly people.

A 74-year-old man, found dead in his overheated flat in central Paris, is thought to be among the first French victims this year.

Long hot summer

Governments in France, Spain and Italy have introduced emergency measures to cope with the summer heat.

France's Health Minister Xavier Bertrand has unveiled a four-stage plan, including a register of vulnerable people in towns with more than 100,000 residents.

In Spain's southern region of Andalucia, where temperatures have risen to 40C (104F) in some areas, the regional government is preparing to alert the elderly, infirm and those with young children by text message.

The country has also set aside 750m euros (499m) of emergency aid for farmers struggling to cope with the country's worst drought in 60 years.

Italy's health ministry urged local authorities to check on elderly citizens by telephoning or visiting those who could be at risk.

In cities such as Milan, Florence and Turin the temperature has topped 35C (95F) over recent days.

The ministry is also setting up a free hotline to provide expert advice on how to manage the heat.

In pictures: Spring scorcher
28 May 05 |  In Pictures
Heat waves set to become 'brutal'
12 Aug 04 |  Science/Nature
Spain in grip of fresh heatwave
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Europe tackles freak weather risk
25 Jun 04 |  Science/Nature


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