World

Western Europe sweats from unusual heat; Paris nears hottest July day since 1947

  • Children play as they cool down in a fountain beside Manzanares river in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, June 30, 2015. Weather stations across Spain are warning people to take extra precautions as a heat wave engulfs much of the country, increasing the risk of wildfires. The country's meteorological agency says a mass of hot air originating in Africa is moving northwards, bringing temperatures reaching 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

    Children play as they cool down in a fountain beside Manzanares river in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, June 30, 2015. Weather stations across Spain are warning people to take extra precautions as a heat wave engulfs much of the country, increasing the risk of wildfires. The country's meteorological agency says a mass of hot air originating in Africa is moving northwards, bringing temperatures reaching 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)  (The Associated Press)

  • People line up to take a shower on Biarritz's beach, in southwestern France, where the temperature reached 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit), Tuesday, June 30, 2015.  A mass of hot air moving north from Africa is bringing unusually hot weather to Western Europe, with France the next in line for a scorching day. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)

    People line up to take a shower on Biarritz's beach, in southwestern France, where the temperature reached 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit), Tuesday, June 30, 2015. A mass of hot air moving north from Africa is bringing unusually hot weather to Western Europe, with France the next in line for a scorching day. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)  (The Associated Press)

  • A woman uses a fan to cool off in the shade on a hot summer day, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Tuesday, June 30, 2015. A mass of hot air moving north from Africa is bringing a heat wave to Europe, with France the next in line for a scorching day.  Forecasters said southern France could see temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius on Tuesday, a day after Cordoba in southern Spain recorded 43.7 degrees Celsius (110.66 Fahrenheit).  (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

    A woman uses a fan to cool off in the shade on a hot summer day, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Tuesday, June 30, 2015. A mass of hot air moving north from Africa is bringing a heat wave to Europe, with France the next in line for a scorching day. Forecasters said southern France could see temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius on Tuesday, a day after Cordoba in southern Spain recorded 43.7 degrees Celsius (110.66 Fahrenheit). (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)  (The Associated Press)

Commuters are baring lots of skin in western Europe and authorities in countries like France are reaching out to vulnerable populations as the region sweats over unusually hot summer weather.

A mass of hot air moving north from Africa has driven up temperatures in Spain, Portugal, Britain and France in recent days. Temperatures in Paris were expected to hit 39 degrees Celsius (102 Fahrenheit) Wednesday afternoon.

Southwest France saw temperatures reaching 42 C (107 F) and Cordoba in southern Spain recorded nearly 44 C (111 F).

Paris authorities opened special air-conditioned rooms to the public and were checking on the elderly. France is particularly sensitive about the issue since thousands of people died in a heat wave in 2003.

The last time Paris saw 40 C in July was in 1947, according to Meteo France forecaster Francois Gourand. August is hotter, but 2003 was the last time Paris saw 40 C in that month.

At Paris' Gare de Lyon train station, public announcements repeatedly reminded people to drink lots of water and not overexert. A few medics were deployed in case of emergency.

"We have a lot of heat-wave days ahead of us," Gourand said, noting that a wide swath of southern France from Toulouse to Lyon was looking at temperatures of up to 41 C until the middle of next week.

British and Italian authorities were also on alert Wednesday.

In Britain, less accustomed to sweltering climes than is France, one cheeky Web site gave a "taps aff" — Scottish for "tops off" — grade to London as the mercury was forecast to hit 34 C Wednesday in a one-day heat wave.

Portugal, meanwhile, is bracing for what could be a challenging forest fire season after an exceptionally dry winter and spring, and the hottest and driest June for 12 years.

During the critical risk period, the Civil Protection Service will have its full assets on permanent standby — more than 9,700 firefighters, just over 2,000 vehicles and 45 aircraft.

Some 230 lookout towers across the country will be staffed by unemployed people.