Red Cross/ Red Crescent Climate Centre

IFRC warns of heatwave risks as Spain and Portugal face hottest weather in modern record

03/08/2018 - by the IFRC

(This story is an IFRC press release issued earlier today in Geneva and Budapest.)

Spain and Portugal could face their hottest day in history and record Europe’s highest temperature since 1977, according to weather forecasts today.

The rest of southern and central Europe is also preparing for extreme heat this weekend.

Dr Davron Mukhamadiev, IFRC Europe Region Health Coordinator, said: “This summer’s heatwave has already taken its toll on communities across the continent, as we have seen with the devastation caused by the recent wildfires in Greece.

“If the temperatures climb even higher this will be dangerous, especially for vulnerable people. If you have older relatives or neighbours, giving them a call or visiting could save a life.”

Awareness

Hundreds of Red Cross volunteers are going door-to-door to check on those who might be struggling to cope with the heat.

In the Netherlands, recent Red Cross research revealed that just 18 per cent of people check on elderly relatives in a heatwave.

Hundreds of volunteers are now visiting at-risk homes and providing soup and fruit to help people stay hydrated.

“Night time temperatures are also remaining high which means our bodies have less chance to recover and rest while we are sleeping,” said Mukhamadiev.

“Prolonged heatwaves are particularly dangerous for people with existing health problems like high blood pressure or heart problems. Drinking plenty of water, staying out of the sun and getting enough rest can help keep people safe.”

‘If you have older relatives or neighbours,
calling or visiting could save a life’

In Portugal, volunteers are keeping watch in areas at risk of wildfires and are urging the public to do the same. Last year ferocious fires in central Portugal claimed 66 lives and destroyed hundreds of homes.

National Societies across Europe are running public awareness and information campaigns, including for holidaymakers.

The Spanish Red Cross is providing beach safety and visiting homeless people and vulnerable communities, as is the Italian Red Cross (photo).

German Red Cross water-safety volunteers are also stationed on the coast and at lakes, providing safety advice and first aid.

                                                                            *

Climate impacts are becoming steadily more visible, and the trend in potentially lethal heatwaves across the northern hemisphere is among the most easily attributed to manmade climate change, writes Climate Centre Director Maarten van Aalst.

We’ve seen only too clearly in recent weeks how even in developed countries like Canada and Japan – with the best facilities available anywhere – the elderly and the very young can be seriously affected by unusual heat.

The link to wildfires is more complex, with other factors coming into play. But the current heat emergency in Europe – with quite extraordinary temperatures approaching 50 degrees Celsius – so soon after the tragedy in Greece highlights that climate is no longer a risk for the future.

It’s in our lives right now, with little real prospect of anything but more of the same in the near term, even with the efforts centred on the Paris Agreement that must surely now be redoubled.

Italian Red Cross volunteers are among many this weekend checking up on vulnerable elderly people in what may turn out to be an historic heatwave in south-west Europe. (Photo: Emiliano Albensi/CRI via IFRC)