Two killed in Greek fires

ATHENS (Reuters) - Two men were killed on Thursday by forest fires whipped up by Greece’s worst heatwave for more than a century, while on the other side of Europe more torrential rain and flooding threatened Britain.

British authorities issued new warnings about heavy rain over the next three days after four people were killed this week in flooding caused by Britain’s wettest June on record.

“The hardest hit areas are likely to see further significant rainfall, only exacerbating the flooding which has already occurred,” said the Meteorological Office. The Environment Agency has 12 severe flood warnings in operation.

The death toll from Greece’s worst heatwave in 110 years rose to 12 when the two men were unable to escape after their car was trapped by forest fires near the central town of Agia. Temperatures have reached 46 degrees Celsius (115 Fahrenheit).

In Cyprus, four people have died of suspected heatstroke. Cypriot authorities said demand for electricity to power air conditioning units reached a record high on Thursday.

Hundreds of firefighters, backed by aircraft, battled to contain forest fires in central Greece as the country struggled to cope with the six-day-old heatwave.

Their work was hampered by exploding World War Two mines in a pine forest near Dervenochoria, some 100 km north of Athens.

“Operations in the forest are extremely dangerous because of mines left over from the war and because of strong winds which fan the fire,” a fire brigade official said.

Greece also suffered power outages in many areas, including parts of the capital, due to increased energy consumption and damage to the grid.

An electricity station in northern Greece exploded, and officials said the Dervenochoria fire may have been started by overheating electricity pylons.

British police said the risk of a dam breaking in the central English county of Yorkshire had been “significantly reduced” because pumping had brought down water levels.

A nearby section of the M1 motorway was reopened.

Additional reporting by Tim Castle in London and Michelle Kambas in Nicosia