PATRICK QUINNHeat wave sears southeastern Europe
ATHENS, Greece (July 6, 2000) - High temperatures seared southeastern Europe on Thursday, the hottest day for most of the region in a heat wave that has left at least 23 people dead and sent thermometers climbing to 113 degrees.
In Romania, where temperatures reached 109 degrees, nine people were confirmed dead due to the heat, most of them farmers working in fields west of Bucharest
Bulgaria saw eight heat-related deaths, three people died in Greece, one elderly man died in Macedonia and another in Bosnia. In southeastern Turkey, two soldiers attempting to escape the heat reportedly drowned after wading into the Tigris River.
In Croatia, media reports said that up to 40 people had died of heat-related ailments. The Health Ministry said it could not yet confirm if all the deaths were due to high temperatures.
The entire southeastern region of the continent has been gripped by a high pressure area that has sent temperatures rocketing and broken century-old records. Average daytime temperatures for much of the Balkans normally range between 86-95 degrees.
The high pressure has trapped hot air masses flowing up from the Sahara desert and the Middle East. Temperatures in the region are expected to remain high until the end of next week, meteorologists say. Thermometers touched 120 degrees earlier this week in Sardinia.
In Greece, with temperatures forecast to reach 113 degrees Thursday, the government opened climate-controlled public auditoriums and indoor stadiums, while smog levels approached danger levels in downtown Athens.
Garbage was left uncollected in the Greek capital after municipal employees called a strike to demand the rehiring of 52 waste collectors.
Arid conditions have also sparked forest fires, with major blazes in Greece and Italy.