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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 July 2007, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
Europe bakes in summer heatwave
Fires in Macedonia
Macedonia's president declared a state of emergency as fires raged
South-eastern Europe is sweltering as a heatwave continues, with fears of further power cuts and forest fires.

The mercury is tipped to hit 40C in Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia, but temperatures have eased slightly in many areas affected by the heat.

Greece's electricity grid is close to breaking point as demand soars and searing temperatures evaporate rivers used to create hydro-electric power.

Up to 500 people have died in the heat in Hungary and 30 in Romania.

Scramble for power

On Tuesday, one person died in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as houses were destroyed in a blaze near Bitola, the country's second-largest city. President Branko Crvenkovski declared a national emergency and called in army units to help battle the fires.

Conditions there also hit Albania, which was left without power because of a faulty transmission line bringing electricity from Macedonia. There were also blackouts in Greece, Montenegro and the Kosovo region.

Authorities in Greece are hoping to avoid a repeat of Tuesday's blackouts, urging consumers not to crank up their air conditioners and sending civil servants home early to curb energy usage.

It has also been trying to import electricity from neighbouring countries, but regional power shortages have hampered these efforts, says the BBC's Malcolm Brabant in Athens.

Tourists cool off in Thessaloniki, Greece

Forests in Greece are now under 24-hour watch and more than 1,000 extra firefighters were sent to the north and west of the country as fires continued to burn on Tuesday.

Two pilots were buried with full military honours after their fire-fighting aircraft crashed during water-bombing operations on the Greek island of Evia.

One man died on the island of Corfu on Monday, probably of heat stroke, health officials said.

In Hungary, up to 500 people have died from heatstroke, cardiovascular problems and other illnesses aggravated by the heat in the past week, said Anna Paldy, deputy director of the National Institute of Environmental Health.

CENTRAL EUROPEAN TEMPERATURES, 22 JULY
Map: europe heatwave
Sunday saw some of the highest recent temperatures in central and eastern Europe

In Belgrade, construction sites are falling silent after the Serbian government ordered all outdoor work to stop at 1100 to help workers avoid exposure to the afternoon heat.

Serbia's agriculture ministry says 30% of the country's annual harvest has been destroyed because of the heat, with the wheat, soya and vegetable crops worst hit.

Meanwhile, parts of northern Europe have seen vast floods and heavy rainfall, sparking fears that climate change may be to blame for the extreme weather.

Six mountain climbers died in three separate incidents when temperatures in the Alps plunged from 10C (50F) to -15C (5F) on Tuesday, Italian and French officials said.

SUMMER 2006
Map showing location of jet stream
In a 'normal' summer, the Atlantic jet stream directs areas of low pressure, which bring cloud and rain, to the north of the UK. High pressure systems over Europe and the Atlantic bring warm, settled conditions.
Pressure chart: 29/6/06. Source: Met Office

SUMMER 2007
Map showing weather patterns in Europe
This summer, the jet stream is flowing further south, allowing low pressure systems to sweep straight over the centre of Britain. It is also pulling in warmer air from the sub-tropics and Africa, which is sweeping over south-eastern Europe.
Pressure chart: 24/07/07. Source: Met Office




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Raging forest fires caused by the heatwave





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