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Thunderstorms Expected As Hot Weather To Continue Across Britain

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WEATHER SCARBOROUGH BEACH
Beachgoers enjoy the fine weather in Scarborough | PA

The longest heatwave for seven years is set to continue across Britain - but the blazing temperatures will bring widespread rain and thunderstorms next week.

Forecasters expect a slightly cooler weekend than in recent days, followed by a surge to 32C (89.6F) or possibly 33C (91.4F) in local areas on Monday and Tuesday.

The hot weather has taken its toll on the UK, with grass fires in London, mountain blazes in the Welsh valleys and forest fires in Fife, Scotland.

The heatwave is believed to have caused up to 760 premature deaths already, and the British Red Cross has launched two call centres in Norwich and Ipswich to check on the welfare of hundreds of elderly and vulnerable people in the region.

Britain will have a little respite from the extreme temperatures over the weekend, feeling fresher in eastern areas with more cloud and breezes coming in from the North Sea, weather experts said.

James Wilby, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said western Scotland, western Northern Ireland and the southern counties of England will be the hottest areas, with temperatures reaching 27C (80.6F) or 28C (82.4F), while eastern counties will see 22C (71.6F) or 23C (73.4F).

"Sunday will be warmer, with 29C in the southern counties, but Monday will be the warmest day, with 32C (89.6F) possible just south of London, and perhaps 33C (91.4F) in localised areas," Mr Wilby said.

"Tuesday will see similar conditions to Monday, but on Wednesday and Thursday it will be between 26C (78.8F) and 28C (82.4F)."

Showers and thunderstorms will hit the South West tomorrow, spreading through western parts of the UK on Monday. By Tuesday heavy, thundery rain will be more widespread, and thundery showers are expected to cover most of the country by Wednesday, Mr Wilby said.

Despite the prolonged heatwave, temperatures are unlikely to top the high of 36.5C (97.7F) recorded in Surrey in July 2006.

The Met Office has warned of an "elevated risk" of fires in the countryside following six consecutive days of plus-30C temperatures and a dramatic reduction in the average monthly rainfall.

Level three heatwave health warnings have been issued for western parts of the country. The South East, East Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber are at level two. The North East and East remain at level one.

Police and fire chiefs have reiterated warnings about escaping the heat by swimming in open water after a number of deaths in recent weeks. Four people died in separate incidents on Tuesday in lakes, rivers and the sea in Norfolk, the Shropshire-north Wales border and Cornwall.

Officers in Lincolnshire reported another death yesterday afternoon, after a woman was pulled from the sea in Skegness.

Emergency services were called to the beach area behind the Beachcomber on Roman Bank, Ingoldmells, shortly after midday.

Officers said the 69-year-old woman's death was not being treated as suspicious.

Elsewhere, a four-week-old baby was among 10 children admitted to one hospital with sunburn since the period of hot weather began.

Six of the 10 patients - of which the oldest was 14 - needed specialist treatment after being referred to the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, West Sussex, from other hospitals because of the severity of their burns.

The balmy temperatures have also proved difficult for some motorists, with roadside recovery firms reporting a spike in weather-related breakdowns.

Elsewhere wildfires have also seen emergency services stretched.

Crops due for imminent harvest are said to be particularly vulnerable to blazes.

In London, firefighters have tackled dozens of grass fires since Wednesday afternoon, including at Mitcham Common on Thursday when flames burned through grass and gorse in an area the size of four football pitches.

Insurers have warned wildfires could put lives at risk and cost millions of pounds in damaged crops and machinery.

Farmers have been urged to ensure that their fire extinguishers are well maintained and to reduce the risk of combine harvesters catching fire by regularly cleaning the machinery to remove chaff and dust.

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