While Europeans seek relief from unusually high temperatures spreading across the continent, the U.N. weather agency says the region is better prepared than in the past to avoid major casualties.

From Spain to Poland, temperatures have climbed as a mass of hot air from Africa has pushed northward. Some cities have seen temperatures near or beyond 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), and they're expected to stay high through the weekend.

World Meteorological Organization spokeswoman Clare Nullis told reporters Friday that Europe is "much, much better prepared" to cope with the heat than in 2003, when tens of thousands of people died, mostly elderly people in France.

Many authorities have early warning systems in place. French authorities are reaching out to the vulnerable and encouraging the homeless to use public baths.