European heat wave leaves 31 dead

Power cuts, fires and 31 people dead – that are the results of sizzling temperatures in Greece, Italy and Romania in recent days.

"This is the worst day since the heat wave started with 46 degrees (Celsius; 114.8 Fahrenheit) in two towns," Nikos Kanteres of the Greek meteorological service, said Tuesday.

Seven large brush fires broke out Monday and Tuesday in Greece and hundreds of people were evacuated from threatened homes near the southern city of Pyrgos, 320 kilometers (200 miles) southwest of Athens. Fire Chief Andreas Kois said all fires were contained. "We have very high temperatures and this has made conditions difficult ... The good thing is that the winds are not strong," Kois said.

Fire warnings were issued Tuesday for all parts of the country. Overheated power cables were blames for outages in 10 areas of Athens.

The Greek government closed most public services early at noon, as temperatures in the capital reached 43 Celsius (109.4 Fahrenheit).

Italy also continued to bake. The heat wave has sparked two dozen forest fires in Sicily and Sardinia, as well as in the southern mainland regions. Temperatures in much of Italy were into the mid-30s Celsius (about 95 Fahrenheit) on Tuesday morning, the weather service said. Colder winds were expected to bring some respite on Wednesday, according to forecasts.

Sicily's capital, Palermo, had reached 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 Fahrenheit) on Monday, but was down to 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit) on Tuesday morning, the weather service said.

Power cuts switched off traffic lights as well as the refrigerators of some restaurants, cafes and supermarkets in the city, the ANSA news agency said. The high temperatures damaged electric cables and have increased electricity demand, causing an overload in the system, Enel Spa power company said.

Scattered blackouts were reported in the eastern Sicilian city of Catania, where temperatures hit 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 Fahrenheit) mid-Tuesday, according to the weather service.

Albania, Romania and Serbia have also been hard hit by the heat. Nineteen people in Romania and seven in Serbia were reported to have died of heat-related causes in this first severe heat-wave of the season. The heat has been blamed for five deaths in Greece.

In southern Romania, temperatures reached 40 Degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) on Tuesday. But they were much higher at street level in the capital, Bucharest, due to the overheated asphalt. Large trucks were banned from national highways between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. to protect the softened road surfaces from damage.

In Bucharest, city personnel set up tents and offered drinking water and free blood pressure checks to residents. The ambulance service in Bucharest said 78 people had fainted on the streets since Monday.

The south and eastern regions of Romania were experiencing the worst drought since 1945, and authorities issued fire alerts in affected areas.