ATHENS (Reuters) - A heatwave has claimed two lives in Greece and killed six more people in Romania as temperatures soared to 46 degrees Celsius (114.8 Fahrenheit) in parts of southeast Europe.
Turkey and Cyprus also reported deaths blamed on the intense heat, while three people drowned in Bulgaria swimming in unsupervised dams and beaches at the weekend as temperatures climbed well above early summer averages.
Greece, which has seen some of the highest temperatures, is set to record its hottest ever June.
The Greek government responded by ordering all public offices to work only half days on Tuesday and Wednesday, closing at midday to reduce energy consumption and allow people to stay out of the sun at the hottest time of the day.
In Turkey, Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler said that pregnant and disabled public servants would be given days off on Tuesday and Wednesday because of the extreme heat.
Meteorologists said temperatures could hit 40 degrees Celsius in the Romanian capital Bucharest on Tuesday, the highest level in 90 years.
Twenty-five people have died in Romania during the recent hot spell, health ministry data showed on Monday.
Across Bucharest, children jumped into the Dambovita river and water fountains, clutching empty plastic bottles to help them stay afloat.
Hot weather is expected to last throughout the summer, affecting cereal crops and hydropower production. But temperatures should ease below 30 degrees Celsius from Wednesday, meteorologists said.
Forest fires were also reported near several prominent tourist spots on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.
Athenians emerged from the city’s metro clutching newspapers over their heads to try stave off the blazing sun, while tourists with bottles of water sheltered under the few trees in the city centre.
“Two elderly people in the Greek regional towns of Larisa and Aigio died due to complications from heatstroke,” Athanasios Giannopoulos, the country’s deputy health minister told state-run NET television.
The victims were already unwell and their condition was exacerbated by the heat, hospital officials said.
Across Greece, local authorities have set up large air-conditioned halls to provide shelter for the elderly and people with heart problems.
Authorities have also told Athenians to avoid unnecessary travel and to switch off energy-hungry home appliances including washing machines, boilers and air conditioners.
Increased use of air conditioners has, however, raised the specter of blackouts during the week, as people who escaped to the beaches over the weekend return home.
In Britain, homes were flooded, roads submerged and rivers rose to dangerously high levels on Monday as torrential rain and strong winds lashed many areas.
Rain delayed the start of the Wimbledon tennis tournament in London on Monday.
Additional reporting by Iulia Rosca in Bucharest, Michelle Kambas in Nicosia, Selcuk Gokoluk in Ankara; and Avril Ormsby in London