A fierce heatwave left much of western Europe sweltering on Monday, fuelling ferocious wildfires and stretching emergency services, as it pushed north and took temperatures to record levels.
After Britain’s warmest night on record, the country’s Met Office said 39.1 Celsius (102.4 Fahrenheit) was provisionally recorded in Charlwood, near Gatwick Airport, south of London.
“If confirmed, this will be the highest temperature ever recorded in the UK,” the Met Office meteorological agency said.
“Temperatures are likely to rise further through today,” it added, with predictions that Britain would breach the 40C mark for the first time.
Experts blame climate change for the latest heatwave and note the more frequent extreme weather will only worsen in years to come.
The high temperatures have triggered an unprecedented red alert for extreme heat in much of England and Wales, where some rail lines were closed as a precaution and schools shuttered in some areas.
“A lot of our infrastructure is just not built for this temperature,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News.
In France, various towns and cities in the country’s west registered their highest-ever temperatures on Monday, the national weather office said.