Heat kills 13 in Europe in one week

A heat-wave sweeping central and southeastern Europe has killed at least 13 people this week, with soaring temperatures causing forest fires and damaging crops, officials said Friday.

In Romania, where temperatures reached about 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) on Friday, the Health Ministry said at least nine people have died since Monday due to the heat wave.

In Austria, where highs in most parts of the Alpine country have hovered near or above 35 degrees C (95 F) for days, the Health Ministry said the deaths of three people in the country's south on Thursday were likely heat-related.

Also Thursday, a 56-year-old woman collapsed and died in downtown Zagreb, Croatia, of what doctors believed was a heat-related heart attack. Temperatures in the Balkan country reached about 40 degrees C (104 F) on Friday.

Elsewhere in the region, in parts of Slovakia and Hungary, authorities distributed free water in some cities.

In the eastern Hungarian town of Kiskunhalas temperatures reached a record 41.9 degrees C (107.4 F), according to the country's national weather center.

Firefighters in Greece, where the country's Fire Service on Thursday reported 115 fires in a 24-hour period, struggled to contain a blaze at an old army base near the capital Athens, where temperatures reached 41 degrees C (105.8 F).

France, where the weather is normal for this time of year, is lending a hand to firefighters in Greece. Two Canadair firefighting planes left Friday morning for Greece and will return home Sunday night.

The heat has also sparked forest fires in parts of Italy, Romania and Bulgaria, where a state of emergency has been declared in the southern districts of Haskovo and Stara Zagora.

Strong winds and high temperatures are complicating efforts to contain the blazes, and Bulgarian authorities have called on army and police units for help.

The extreme heat and lack of rain is also causing concern among farmers in the area.

In Romania, for example, an industry group estimates the agriculture sector has suffered damage worth more than EUR 1.5 billion (US$2 billion) due to a severe drought.

The League of Agricultural Producers called on the government to pay compensation for their losses and provide them with seeds to help replant crops in the fall.

The government has so far declared a state of disaster in 34 out of 42 counties and has offered to pay compensation of up to 750 lei (EUR 230; US$320) per affected hectare, or about 310 lei (EUR 100; US$140) per acre.

In Austria, the steady sunshine and lack of rain has also taken its toll on grapes in Burgenland, one of Austria's wine growing regions.

"In the vineyards, there are first signs of 'sunburn' damage," Franz Stefan Hautzinger, president of the region's agriculture chamber, was quoted as saying by the Austria Press Agency.

Also in Austria, a society for the prevention of cruelty to animals called for a ban on horse-drawn carriages in the capital, Vienna, especially on particularly hot days.

The carriages are popular with tourists and are a common sight in the city center. The horses frequently have to wait in direct sunlight for customers, and often work longer hours than humans, the group said in a statement.

In contrast to the sweltering conditions in central and southeastern Europe, Britain experienced extreme weather of another sort on Friday, with more than a month's worth of rain falling in some areas.

Residents across the south of England reported flooded neighborhoods, and London's Underground closed subway lines and stations across the city because of excess water.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova