From Times Online | July 24, 2007
Freak Hungary Heat Wave Leaves 500 Dead
David Byers and agencies

As many as 500 people died in Hungary during the last week in an extreme heat wave which saw temperatures reach above 40 degrees Celsius, the country's chief medical officer announced today.

Ferenc Falus said that the heat in central Hungary had "contributed to the early death of 230 people, which nationally means about 500 deaths" between July 15 and 22.

The figure leaves Hungary suffering by far the biggest death toll around Europe as a result of freak weather conditions, which have led to soaring temperatures in the south and centre of the continent and torrential rainfall and widespread flooding in Britain.

Temperatures regularly rose above 40 degrees in Hungary over the last few days, hitting the all-time high of 41.9C last Friday in the southern city of Kiskunhalas.

“Calls for ambulances increased by some 30 per cent over the past week but during record high temperatures on Friday, this went up to 50 per cent," Pal Gyorfi, a Hungarian emergency services spokesman said.

“What we are seeing is that older people are having a tougher and tougher time dealing with the heat."

Fires were also reported throughout the country with firefighters called out 3,000 times to put out blazes, two and a half times the weekly average.

A high death toll was also reported in Romania with the country's health minister disclosing 27 heat-related fatalities over the last two days, while hundreds of others were reported to have collapsed in the street through heat exhaustion.

In Italy, at least four people were confirmed to have died in forest fires caused by the heat today which trapped hundreds of tourists on beaches in the Puglia region.

Elena Gentile, in charge of social affairs in the Puglia regional council, said two of them were found burnt to death in a car and two asphyxiated on a beach near the village of Peschici, where the fire swept close to houses, forcing the evacuation of a hotel, several camp sites and tourist resorts.

Dozens of houses were destroyed by forest fires in Macedonia and a nation-wide power cut was reported in Albania.

The highest temperatures were reported in Greece and Bulgaria, which reached a continent-wide high of 45 degrees today.


   Original article: Times on line
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