Page last updated at 17:20 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 18:20 UK

Heatwave alert level increases

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The heatwave is set to continue for many parts

The Met Office has raised its heatwave alert level in parts of England, as hot and humid conditions look set to continue until Friday.

London and the South East are now on Level 3 of four, with temperatures set to reach at least 32C (89.6F).

The Department of Health has issued special advice for the elderly and other people at risk from the heat.

Other areas are cooler and heavy rain is moving into Scotland, Wales, and south-west and northern England.

Thunderstorms in Tyne and Wear and Cumbria caused flash floods on Wednesday, with up to 500 lightning strikes recorded across the region in just a few hours.

The Met Office has issued severe weather warnings of heavy rain for the Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber, northern England and south-west Scotland and the Borders.

Wet weather is also forecast in Wales and south-western England on Thursday.

HEATWAVE ADVICE
Keep curtains on windows exposed to the sun closed if the temperature outside is higher than it is inside.
Once the temperature outside has dropped lower than it is inside, open the windows
Water plants, and spray the ground outside windows with water to help cool the air
Those at risk should stay out of the sun, especially between the hours of 11am and 3pm
Source: Department of Health

It is the first time the Met Office has issued a Level 3 heatwave alert since June 2006.

It occurs when temperatures reach a certain threshold - which vary by region - and are sustained in one or more regions over two nights and the intervening day, with a forecast of higher temperatures to come.

The Met Office said a key factor in raising the alert had been night-time temperatures, with some areas not falling below 18C.

The highest heatwave level - Level 4 - is classed as "red emergency".

It is reached when heat is so severe that illness and death may occur among the fit and healthy, and not just in high-risk groups.

Met Office spokeswoman Sarah Holland said: "We are expecting temperatures in London and the South East to reach 31-32C today and on Thursday they might reach 33C.

"After that we are expecting temperatures to come down and by the weekend it should be a lot cooler."

On Tuesday, the government's health advice line NHS Direct took a total of 318 calls from members of the public complaining about sunburn, heat-exhaustion, breathing difficulties and other heat-related ailments.

The Department of Health (DoH) said those at most risk from heatstroke included the very young and the very old, and people with heart and respiratory problems.

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It said people should contact their local environmental health officer if they had concerns about living conditions for themselves or a vulnerable friend, neighbour or relative.

People with respiratory problems should stay inside during the hottest part of the day.

Anyone with symptoms of heat exhaustion should drink plenty of water and move somewhere cool.

Those with symptoms of heatstroke should be moved somewhere cooler and sponged with water while urgent medical treatment is sought.

London Underground passengers are being advised to take bottles of water on every Tube journey.

And St John's Ambulance volunteers are on hand to issue advice and treat tennis fans suffering from the heat at Wimbledon.

The Met Office says by Friday the heatwave should start to dissipate, with temperatures heading back to normal levels over the weekend.



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