Bucharest - Persistent heat of 35 degrees celsius has caused 19 deaths in Romania by Friday morning, but the worst was yet to come, meteorologists and medical services warned. The people who succumbed to the heat were mostly older or chronically ill people, according to the health ministry. In Bucharest alone 143 people passed out in the searing heat on the streets.
After hovering around mid-30's since the start of the week, the temperature was expected to rise to 38 in the coming days. The heat in the streets is already higher, since the temperature is measured in the shade and away from the concrete and asphalt.
Of the 41 Romanian districts, 23 have declared emergency measures to deal with the heat and help people with health problems.
Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu Popescu threatened dismissal to all local officials who failed to take steps such as to erect tents on the streets for emergency treatment and rehydration of stricken pedestrians.
The heatwave has been accompanied by a drought which has dried out the artesian wells in 16 municipalities, where drinking water had to be brought to the population in cisterns.
The interior ministry said that it could ban the watering of gardens and farms if the situation remains grave.
The heatwave has also gripped other Balkan countries, which, unlike Romania, have had no formal heat alerts, despite temperatures higher than 35 degrees or more.
An increased number of emergency calls was reported across the region, in Serbia and Kosovo, Croatia, Bosnia, Albania and Macedonia.
In Albania, the ATA news agency said that two people succumbed to the heat in the Elbasan in the south.
In Croatia the parliament speaker, Vladimir Seks, had to postpone scheduled meetings because of his heart condition. The Adriatic Sea was warmed to an unseasonable 26 degrees at Split.
The Black Sea waters along the Bulgarian coast were also warmer than usual, reaching 25 degrees.
Im Banja Luka, in northern Bosnia, the temperature reached 41 degrees on Thursday, local reports said.