Ferocious blazes have forced London residents to flee their homes on a day Britain’s temperature has soared to a record high.
The heatwave has already damaged airport runways and bent rail tracks, and people have been so frightened or unwell that paramedics are receiving 400 calls each hour.
The new highest-ever temperature of 40.3 degrees was recorded at Coningsby, according to provisional data from Britain’s Met Office.
More than 34 places likely surpassed the previous record of 38.7 degrees recorded in 2019, the Met Office said.
Early Wednesday morning (Australian time) crews were still battling blazes following a “surge” in fires across the country – including in London.
One of the worst fires is in Wennington, east of the capital, where properties have been damaged and at least one home is destroyed.
The blaze has taken hold of parts of a row of terrace houses as well as nearby grassland.
Distressed residents have recounted how they protected their homes before it became evident the fire was too ferocious and they would need to evacuate to a nearby pub.
Evacuees were then urged to flee again as the fire spread towards the hotel.
Lynn Sabberton fled from her home with her partner, who has a lung problem, after seeing “black smoke”.
“The helicopters came over and more police came into our neighbourhood and it was really spreading very fast,” Ms Sabberton told SkyNews.
“It just spread so quickly, I think the wind caused the fire to go our way towards the village.”
One woman told the BBC her uncle was trapped by the flames approaching his Wennington home. He tried to dig a trench around the house, to protect himself.
Britain, which can struggle to maintain key transport services in extreme heat or the snow, has been put on a state of “national emergency” due to the unprecedented temperatures.
On Monday, London’s Luton Airport briefly suspended flights after a surface defect was found on the runway, and flights had to be diverted from the Royal Air Force’s Brize Norton.
The public were also warned not to swim in open water to cool off, after reports of fatalities. They included a teenage boy, whose body was found in the Thames on Tuesday afternoon.
The dangers of extreme heat remained on display in southern Europe. Almost 600 heat-related deaths have been reported in Spain and Portugal, where temperatures reached 47 degrees last week.
In the Gironde region of south-western France, ferocious wildfires continued to spread through tinder-dry pines forests, frustrating firefighting efforts by more than 2000 firefighters and water-bombing planes.
The weather cooled slightly in the afternoon but the wind grew stronger – and that’s making conditions more difficult for firefighters.
More than 37,000 people have been evacuated from homes and summer vacation spots since the fires broke out July 12 and burned through 190 square kilometres of forests and vegetation, Gironde authorities said.