Thursday, June 28, 2007


It something we are going to have to get used to. Heat waves killing people, animals, and crops. It's the future now. This time it is southeast Europe. Next time it could be your neighborhood.

Greece is experiencing its worst heatwave in 110 years that has already killed seven people, with temperatures reaching 46 Celsius (114.8 Fahrenheit) during a scorcher that has lasted five days and showed no signs on Wednesday of letting up. Sizzling high temperatures yesterday helped spark at least 95 fires across the country and caused blackouts in many parts of Attica as the national power network struggled to meet increased demand. The increased use of air conditioners proved too much for the power network at times, with blackouts in parts of Attica, Crete and other islands continuing for a second day. The Greek military has suspended all exercises and public services were closed in the afternoon.

In southern Italy, after the hottest spring in nearly two centuries the on going heatwave has wiped out fruit crops and killed people.

Sicily is grappling with some 25 severe fires along with Puglia and Calabria, and strong winds are making things worse. Three elderly people died Tuesday in the on Sicily, taking the nationwide toll in the current heatwave to six.

In Romania 30 people died and 12 were reported injured as a heatwave was followed by storms that lashed the south of the country. In Bucharest, torrential rain disrupted power supplies and in Germany strong winds caused ferry services to be cancelled.

In Bulgaria ambulance services were besieged with calls to help people fainting in the street, officials said. Fourteen people have died from the heat in the city of Bucharest over the past week, according to authorities who have set up more than 30 first aid tents in Bucharest alone to cope with the casualties. Police have been handing out water in the street and the health ministry has warned the elderly and those with debilitating illnesses not to go out during the day.
By the way, Northern Africa was also affected by the heatwave with temperatures of over 105 degrees Fahrenheit recorded in Tunisia, where several fires were fanned by the heat and strong Sirocco winds. There were power cuts across the country, notably in the seaside capital Tunis.

Where it wasn't hot, there were other problems.

Britain continued struggling to deal with torrential rains and flooding which have killed four people in recent days. Parts of Britain, particularly the Yorkshire area of northern England, saw more than a month's rainfall in a day, and forecasters were predicting this month will be the wettest June since records began.

In Germany, winds gusting at more than 100 kilometres an hour disrupted maritime and rail traffic in the north of the country.

Heavy rains across southern Sweden caused several small dams to burst, flooding homes and industries and leading some 40 train cancellations yesterday.

The dramatic weather conditions across Europe, as well as flooding in Asia, prompted the United Nations' top disaster prevention official to call for better global preparedness to cope with the impact of climate change.

Salvano Briceno, the director of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, stated, “We cannot wait to be taken by surprise,” he said. “We know what is going to happen and we can prepare for it.”

The website Climate and Capitalism points out, just two months ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its report on Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. It included this warning:

"In Southern Europe, climate change is projected to worsen conditions (high temperatures and drought) in a region already vulnerable to climate variability, and to reduce water availability, hydropower potential, summer tourism and, in general, crop productivity. It is also projected to increase health risks due to heat waves and the frequency of wildfires."
And this:

“Projected climate change-related exposures are likely to affect the health status of millions of people, particularly those with low adaptive capacity, through … increased deaths, disease and injury due to heat waves, floods, storms, fires and droughts …”

The following comes from The Australian, but could have come from lots of other sources.

Five more die as southeast Europe sizzles

FOUR more Romanians have died from a heatwave gripping parts of southeast Europe, raising the region's death toll from the past few days to at least 30.
All four were elderly people who died of breathing or heart problems brought on by the heat, Romania's health ministry said.

In western Turkey, a 60-year-old man collapsed on a beach and later died in hospital as temperatures there hit 44C.

Turkey's western regions reduced working hours for state officials and authorities urged the elderly and children to stay at home, out of the heat.

In Greece, where the scorching weather has killed five people in the past two days, air conditioning systems working flat out pushed energy consumption towards an all-time high, and state offices closed early at noon to conserve power supplies.

Temperatures soared to 46C in some parts of the country on Monday, and authorities expected the heatwave to continue for at least another three days, making this Greece's hottest June ever.

With memories of a 1987 heatwave that killed hundreds, health officials said unnecessary travel should be avoided.

“We have 100 ambulances stationed and on full alert in the capital,” emergency services chief Nikos Papaefstathiou said.

“We have more emergency calls today than in the past days but we are urging people to call only if they are in real need.”

In Romania, where temperatures on Tuesday hit 41C, high schools scheduled athletics exams in early morning or evening to avoid the midday heat.

Bushfires and floods

In southern Italy, where temperatures were also above 40C, brush fires broke out.

In Palermo, a blackout caused by heavy use of air conditioning systems forced a court hearing to be adjourned.

It also knocked out traffic lights in deserted streets.

About 150 people have been admitted to hospital over three days in Turkey's Mugla province, popular with tourists.

Its governor told people to avoid the sun between 10am and 4pm.

By contrast, northern England struggled to cope with the aftermath of severe flooding, caused by torrential rain, which killed a 68-year-old man and a teenager in Sheffield and a man in his 20s in Hull.

About 250 people were moved from their homes near Rotherham after cracks appeared in the Ulley Dam.

Southeastern Europe was already suffering a drought, even before the latest heatwave.

Bulgarian farm ministry sources said a week ago that the wheat crop might be down 30 per cent from last year.

Grain producers say Romania might have to import a million tonnes of wheat this year to cover a domestic shortfall.

And in Ukraine, the Government has imposed stringent limits on grain exports for three months in an attempt to keep down bread prices.

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