Fires are continuing to ravage houses and buildings across the UK after temperatures topped 40C in the UK for the first time ever.
More than 100 fire engines were sent to blazes across London as a major incident was declared. Amid the sweltering heat, major incidents were also announced by fire brigades in Leicestershire, South Yorkshire and Suffolk.
It came as a new provisional UK record temperature was recorded at 40.3C in Coningsby, in Lincolnshire, the Met Office said. The temperature is set to drop by up to 10C in some areas on Wednesday, with heavy showers and thunderstorms to lash parts of the country, potentially causing localised flooding.
London Fire Brigade said there had been “a huge surge” in fires across the capital, with London mayor Sadiq Khan saying the service is under “immense pressure” during the historic heatwave.
One of the most dramatic fires was in the village of Wennington, east London, with television footage showing black smoke billowing into the air, with buildings and fields on fire. At least one home appeared to be destroyed in the fire, while smoke covered a wide area.
A firefighter at the scene, asked by the PA news agency what conditions were like, replied: “absolute hell”, while those affected by the blaze said it had been spreading “fast”. Another “large-scale” incident took place in Upminster.
Several other significant incidents also occurred in the capital, with people urged not to have barbecues or bonfires due to the “unprecedented” challenges crews face, with flames ripping through houses, schools and churches.
The brigade listed 10 major blazes it was fighting across the city on Tuesday, half of them grass fires. Khan revealed on a normal day London Fire Brigade would receive between 300 and 350 calls for assistance – but by 6pm it had already received more than 1,600.
Where are the fires?
The fires being tackled in London on Tuesday afternoon:
– 30 fire engines dealing with a grass fire on Pea Lane in Upminster.
– 12 fire engines tackling a fire involving garden fencing and trees on Uxbridge Road in Pinner.
– 10 fire engines tackling a restaurant fire on Green Lanes in Southgate.
– Eight fire engines tackling a grass fire on Oaks Road in Croydon.
– Eight fire engines tackling a grass fire on Ballards Road in Dagenham.
– Eight fire engines tackling a fire on The Broadway in Wembley.
– Six fire engines tackling a grass fire on Sunningfields Crescent in Hendon.
– Four fire engines tackling a grass fire on Chapel View in Croydon.
– Four fire engines tackling a fire on Sidcup Road in Eltham.
New smaller fires, related to the hot weather, were continuing to crop up in different corners of the city by 11pm on Tuesday.
Elsewhere, a serious blaze occurred in Barnsley when a row of houses in the Moorland Avenue area was consumed by flames, with crews continuing to battle fires elsewhere in the area.
Doncaster Council said a major blaze in Clayton also spread to three residential properties and there were reports of houses on fire in the Kiverton Park and Maltby areas of Rotherham.
Liam Edwards, 25, from Bexley, a student at Oxford Brookes, speaking about a fire by the A2 in Dartford, said: “It was huge when we left it multiple fire engines I’d like to say it’s under control but who knows at this point.
“I’ve lived in London and Kent all my life I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
In Wennington, local residents could be seen being comforted, with hundreds of firefighters at the scene.
At least one home could be seen completely destroyed by the fire, while others appeared to be badly damaged.
Nearby resident, Lynn Sabberton, who said she was evacuated from her home with her partner who has a lung difficulty, told Sky News: “We thought it was one of the fields that caught alight over the back of us.
“But then a neighbour rang me and said, ‘oh no, it’s on the green, the green has caught fire’.
“I saw the black smoke and the helicopters came over and more police came into our neighbourhood and it was really spreading very fast.
“It just spread so quickly, I think the wind caused the fire to go our way towards the village.”
More than 175 firefighters are tackling a grass fire in Upminster, with smoke billowing over the M25. Some three hectares of a cornfield and some scrubland is reportedly alight in Pea Lane.
Around 80 firefighters were sent to a blaze in Wembley after being called to a fire at the back of a row of shops with flats above.
Elsewhere in the UK
Britain shattered its record for highest temperature ever registered on Tuesday amid a heatwave that has battered swathes of Europe.
Met Office chief scientist Stephen Belcher said such temperatures in Britain were “virtually impossible” without human-driven climate change. He warned that “we could see temperatures like this every three years” without serious action on carbon emissions.
The sweltering weather has disrupted travel, healthcare and schools.
The intense heat since Monday has damaged the runway at London’s Luton airport, forcing it to shut for several hours, and warped a main road in eastern England, leaving it looking like a “skatepark”, police said. Major train stations were shut or near-empty on Tuesday, as trains were canceled or ran at low speeds out of concern rails could buckle.
Electric fans cooled the traditional mounted troops of the Household Cavalry as they stood guard in central London in heavy ceremonial uniforms. Other guards reduced their duties to stay out of the sun. The capital’s Hyde Park, normally busy with walkers, was eerily quiet — except for the long lines to take a dip in the Serpentine lake.
A huge chunk of England, from London in the south to Manchester and Leeds in the north, remained under the country’s first “red” warning for extreme heat on Tuesday, meaning there is danger of death even for healthy people.
At least six people were reported to have drowned while trying to cool off in rivers, lakes and reservoirs across the UK.
However, the Met Office said there would be a showery and thundery breakdown of the heat on Wednesday, with a yellow warning for thunderstorms in place for parts of south east, east and central England in the afternoon and evening.
It warns people to expect flooding or lightning strikes, delays and some cancellations to train and bus services, spray and sudden flooding, road closures and possible power cuts.
It will be fresher for most places, although some parts of East Anglia will still see temperatures reach as high as 30C.
Wednesday’s rain, where it occurs, will be much heavier than on Tuesday.