Europe sizzles as heatwave intensifies across continent

LISBON, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Temperatures in Spain and Portugal soared to near record highs on Friday as part of Europe's heatwave and governments put emergency services on alert for forest fires.

Iberia's heatwave, caused by hot air from North Africa, is the most severe since 2003. Elsewhere, summer has brought forest fires and drought to places as far apart as Britain, Scandinavia and Greece.

Temperatures in many parts of Spain and Portugal will remain above 104 degrees Fahrenheit at least until Sunday, and could rise a further 2 or 3 degrees. That could push them above Europe's previous record high of 118 F, set in Athens in 1977.

The previous record highs in both Spain and Portugal were just over 116 F. In Portugal, local media ran stories on how temperatures could beat Death Valley in California, one of the hottest places on earth.

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Europe sizzles as heatwave intensifies
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Europe sizzles as heatwave intensifies
Woman whit dog cool themselves in water curtains during the heat wave in Warsaw. 02 August, 2018, Warsaw, Poland (Photo by Krystian Dobuszynski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Residents at the Ter Biest house for elderly persons refresh their feet in a pool on a hot summer day, in Grimbergen, Belgium, August 3, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Tourists use fans as they queue to get on Santa Justa lift in downtown Lisbon on August 3, 2018. - Two men died from heatstroke in Spain as Europe sweltered in a record heatwave today, with temperatures hitting a scorching 45 degrees Celsius in some areas and meteorologists saying only scant relief is in sight in the coming days. The highest temperature ever recorded in Europe was 48 degrees in Athens in 1977, closely followed by 47.3 in Amareleja, Portugal in 2003 as well as in Montoro, Spain last year. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP) (Photo credit should read PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)
People sunbathe on a river beach at Ribeira das Naus in Lisbon on August 3, 2018. - Two men died from heatstroke in Spain as Europe sweltered in a record heatwave today, with temperatures hitting a scorching 45 degrees Celsius in some areas and meteorologists saying only scant relief is in sight in the coming days. The highest temperature ever recorded in Europe was 48 degrees in Athens in 1977, closely followed by 47.3 in Amareleja, Portugal in 2003 as well as in Montoro, Spain last year. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP) (Photo credit should read PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman sporting a hat walks past a fountain at Rossio square in Lisbon on August 3, 2018. - Two men died from heatstroke in Spain as Europe sweltered in a record heatwave today, with temperatures hitting a scorching 45 degrees Celsius in some areas and meteorologists saying only scant relief is in sight in the coming days. The highest temperature ever recorded in Europe was 48 degrees in Athens in 1977, closely followed by 47.3 in Amareleja, Portugal in 2003 as well as in Montoro, Spain last year. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP) (Photo credit should read PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)
An elderly woman is seen in a retirement home in Nice as summer temperatures continue to rise and local French authorities launched a heat wave alert in France, July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
People cool off in water fountains in Nice as hot summer temperatures continue and authorities maintain a heat wave alert in France, August 1, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
People enjoy a hot summer day on a pedalo on Lake Leman during a heat wave in Lausanne, Switzerland, July 30, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
People enjoy a hot summer day on pedalos on Lake Leman during a heat wave in Lausanne, Switzerland, July 30, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
A baby hippopotamus born less than two months ago, swims in the pond, to cool off during a heat wave, at the La Fleche zoo, northwestern France, on August 3, 2018. (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP) (Photo credit should read JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP/Getty Images)
Men relax in the hot weather by the Marmara Sea in Istanbul, Turkey August 3, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
City guard give away water to citizens during the heat wave in Warsaw. 02 August, 2018, Warsaw, Poland (Photo by Krystian Dobuszynski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
People cool themselves in water curtains during the heat wave in Warsaw. 02 August, 2018, Warsaw, Poland (Photo by Krystian Dobuszynski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A nun takes water from a kiosk designed in the style of the hexagonal newspaper stands in front of the Ancient Colosseum, in central Rome on August 2, 2018. - Italy is experiencing its first summer heat wave with temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
The digital sign of a pharmacy reads 35 degrees Celsius (97 degrees Fahrenheit) on August 2, 2018 in Marseille, southern France, as a wave of heat strikes France. (Photo by Boris HORVAT / AFP) (Photo credit should read BORIS HORVAT/AFP/Getty Images)
People cool off under water sprays in Lille, northern France, on August 2, 2018, as a wave of heat strikes France. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP) (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
A tourist uses a fan during a hot Summer day in front of the Ancient Colosseum in central Rome on August 2, 2018, as Italy is experiencing a Summer heatwave with temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
People sit on the rocks beside the shore of the Bosphorus after bathing in its waters in the Uskudar district of Istanbul on August 3,2018. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
A lion eats a frozen treat with syrup, chicken and fruits to cool off during a heat wave, at the La Fleche zoo, northwestern France, on August 3, 2018. (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP) (Photo credit should read JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP/Getty Images)
A surfer rides on an artificial wave at the canal of the Eisbach river at the English Garden park in Munich, southern Germany, where temperatures were around 33 degrees Celsius on July 31, 2018. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP) (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
With record temperatures with 35 degrees Celsius and more in Munich and in Germany in general many people went to the Englischer Garten and the Eisbach (Isar). (Photo by Alexander Pohl/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The Monopteros is seen in the background. In front of it there are a lot of people at the Eisbach and sun bathing. With record temperatures with 35 degrees Celsius and more in Munich and in Germany in general many people went to the Englischer Garten and the Eisbach (Isar). (Photo by Alexander Pohl/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A woman and a child sit on a pontoon on Lac de Joux during a heat wave in Le Pont, Switzerland, July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
A dog takes a swim in the public bathing pond on Hampstead Heath in London, Britain, August 3, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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"Lisbon will be one of the hottest cities in the world this weekend because it's 10 in the morning right now and the weather is already way too hot," said Ana Pascoal, 56, a cleaner at a high-end restaurant. "It really is unbearable."

Several places in Portugal's parched southern Alentejo region were forecast to hit 116 F. The country went on high alert in an effort to prevent a repeat of the worst fires in history last year, which killed 114 people.

Francois Jobard, a weather forecaster for Meteo France, said the hot air mass from North Africa "will possibly result in record temperatures in Portugal and Spain with 113 F expected from now until Saturday, and even hotter than that."

At the other end of the Mediterranean, Greece was hit by wildfires that killed 91 people last month.

Spanish authorities put out a heat wave warning for most of central Spain, expected to last until Sunday with temperatures of over 107 F in some parts of Andalusia and Extremadura.

Two men have died of heat-stroke in the southeastern region of Murcia, Cadena Ser radio station reported on Wednesday. They were a 48-year-old man working on road works and a 78-year-old man who was working on his allotment, Cadena Ser said.

In Switzerland, mountain railways reported booming business as city dwellers fled to the Alps. Fishery authorities in the canton of Zurich were combing creeks to rescue fish from suffocation as streams dry up or oxygen levels plunge.

The Swiss army let soldiers wear shorts and T-shirts instead of standard uniforms.

Further north in Scandinavia, temperatures hit records until a few days ago. In Sweden July was a record hot month and wildfires burnt in parts of the country. Authorities warned of extreme risk of wildfires again this weekend.

Meanwhile, authorities on both sides of the Baltic Sea, in Sweden and Poland, have warned against swimming due to a huge bloom of toxic algae spreading because of hot temperatures.

(Additional reporting by Sonya Dowsett in Madrid, Anna Ringstrom in Stockholm, Michael Shields and John Miller in Zurich, Lefteris Karagiannopoulos in Oslo, Gabriela Baczynska in Warsaw, Catarina Demony in Lisbon Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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