British holidaymakers are being warned to stay out of the sun during the day as they enjoy their summer holidays amid record-breaking temperatures in Europe.
Three people have died from heatstroke in Spain as the extreme heatwave continues across the continent, where the mercury is reached the mid-40s in places on Friday.
The next few days could see the hottest temperatures ever recorded as a hot air mass continues to move north from Africa, bringing dust from the Sahara Desert.
Tourists are urged to avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day and remember that children are particularly susceptible.
A spokesman for the travel trade association Abta said: “We would advise any tourists setting off to the Iberian peninsula, or anywhere else this weekend where they may experience high temperatures, to take a lead from the locals and avoid spending time in the sun during the hottest part of the day, drink lots of water and apply plenty of sun cream.
“If you go to the beach, go early and when it feels like it’s getting too hot leave, just as the locals do, and go and have a nice lunch in the shade. The reason they do this is because they know how powerful the sun can get in the hottest part of the day and they do everything they can to avoid it.”
In Portugal, eight areas broke local temperature records as a wave of heat from North Africa swept across the Iberian peninsula – and officials predict the scorching temperatures could get even worse over the weekend.
Temperatures built to around 45C on Friday in many inland areas of Portugal, and are expected to peak at 47C in some places on Saturday.
The highest temperature recorded on Thursday, when the heat began to rise, was 45.2C near Abrantes, a town 93 miles north east of the capital Lisbon, the country’s weather agency IPMA said.
Portugal’s highest recorded temperature is 47.4C in 2003.
Emergency services have issued a red alert until Sunday, placing extra services such as medical staff and firefighters on standby.
In Portugal’s southern Alentejo province, streets remain largely deserted. Some farmers chose to work during the night instead of in the heat of the day. Beaches around Lisbon, however, were packed.
Meanwhile, 400 firefighters and five water-dropping aircraft are battling a wildfire in the southern Algarve region.
Portugal sees large wildfires every year, although unseasonably cool weather through the end of July has meant fewer blazes in 2018. The government says only about 15% of the 10-year average area has been charred so far this year.
Meteorologists said dust clouds from the Sahara Desert gave the sky a dark yellow hue in some areas.
In Spain, three men died of heatstroke. A middle-aged man in Barcelona was found collapsed on a street and taken to hospital where he later died. Two other men – a roadworker in his 40s and a 78-year-old pensioner – also died.
Heat warnings have been issued for 41 of the country’s 50 provinces as temperatures are expected to reach up to 44C.
In northern Europe, Sweden is still under threat from wildfires, which in recent weeks have extended into the Arctic Circle.
Sweden’s Civil Contingencies Agency warned of “a high risk” for wildfires in central and southern Sweden this weekend because of the continuing dry weather and strong winds.
The country’s highest peak, a glacier on the southern tip of the Kebnekaise mountain, has melted so much it is no longer the nation’s tallest point, scientists have said.
It comes as another blast of hot weather returns to parts of the UK.
Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill said the mercury is likely to reach the high 20s and low 30s again, adding that despite the more comfortable temperatures in recent days “it is not the end of the hot weather for the summer”.
Temperatures could climb back up to 31C in London this weekend, with sunshine returning to most of the country.
Southwark Council said it was suspending the use of barbecues in Burgess Park, south London, after London Fire Brigade warned people to take extra care during the hot weather.
The north of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland will enjoy temperatures in the mid-20s, with scatterings of rain.
A yellow warning for thunderstorms was issued for eastern Scotland on Friday afternoon.
A Met Office spokesman said: “Essentially at the end of the week we’re looking at a bit of a north-west/south-east split in the weather.
“Northern and some western areas will often be cooler with some outbreaks of rain – particularly in Northern Ireland – and that could spread into southern and western Scotland.”
Temperatures are forecast to remain at an average of about 27C.
The spokesman added: “This weekend is much more promising than last weekend with plenty of sunshine around, although the north of England could see a few showers on Saturday.”
The heat is likely to continue into next week.