And so it begins: Schools close in Paris as Sahara heat moves in

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Countries across Europe are taking extraordinary measures as a heatwave bringing record-breaking June temperatures takes hold.

Met Office forecaster Matthew Box said an “enormous reservoir” of hot air from the Sahara has engulfed the continent, which is expected to bring temperatures surpassing 40C (104F) to some areas in the coming days.

These could topple June records for France, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium.

Temperatures in the UK are expected to hit 28C (82F) or 29C (84F) at the end of the week, and could surpass 30C (86F) by Saturday.

Festivalgoers heading to Glastonbury this weekend have been advised to take extra sunscreen and take shelter from the sun.

In Germany, authorities have placed speed restrictions on short stretches of the motorway in the north eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, where such limits are not usually imposed.

This is due to concerns that scorching temperatures could damage road surfaces.

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Meanwhile, a forest fire has ripped through 100 hectares of land in an area near Lieberoser, 70 miles southeast of Berlin, prompting a large emergency response.

More than half of France has been placed on an orange heat alert – the second highest alert – as it braces for temperatures breaking 40C (104F).

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Parts of Spain are on high alert for both high temperatures and wildfires

Dozens of schools were closed on Wednesday due to a lack of air conditioning, with more closures expected toward the end of the week.

National exams on Thursday and Friday have also been postponed after education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer deemed it would be too hot.

Vast preparations for the heatwave have been made across the country, including the designation of “cool places”, the installation of temporary fountains, and a particular focus on protecting the most vulnerable.

Charities in Paris are also roaming the streets, handing water to the homeless.

These extra measures have been implemented in part due to France’s wariness of seeing repeated results of a European heatwave in 2003, which led to the deaths of 20,000 people – 15,000 of whom were French.

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Parts of Spain are on high alert for both high temperatures and wildfires

Many of those who died were elderly people living alone in their apartments, or in retirement homes that lacked air conditioning.

Switzerland’s national weather service Meteo Swiss has issued a red heat alert – the highest level – in areas in the south, including Basel.

An orange heat alert has also been issued in parts of north eastern Spain, while the same areas and the Balearic Islands have been placed on an “extreme” red alert for wildfires.

A tweet that went viral earlier in the week from Spanish meteorologist Silvia Laplana described the situation as “hell”.

She added: “Of course in summer it is hot, but when we talk about a heatwave so extensive and intense, which, predictably, will break records, that is NOT normal.”

And so it begins: Schools close in Paris as Sahara heat moves in
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France has placed a special focus on the elderly and vulnerable population during the heatwave

Stefan Rahmstorf, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said record-breaking temperatures are now happening far more often.

“Monthly heat records all over the globe occur five times as often today as they would in a stable climate,” he said.