Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Southeast Europe Sizzles; 38 Die

The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 26, 2007; 7:26 PM

ATHENS, Greece -- Sizzling temperatures in Greece, Italy and Romania brought power cuts and brush fires in a heat wave that has led to at least 38 deaths in southeast Europe in recent days.

Four more people were reported dead in southern Romania Tuesday, bringing the country's death toll to 23. Italian news agency ANSA reported that three elderly people died Tuesday in Sicily after suffering heart failure blamed by doctors on the heat.

In Greece, seven large brush fires broke out Monday and Tuesday and hundreds of people were evacuated from threatened homes near the southern city of Pyrgos, 200 miles southwest of Athens. Air tankers helped contain that blaze after a night-long effort.

Fire warnings were issued Tuesday for all parts of Greece, while overheated power cables were blames for outages in 10 areas of Athens. Five people have died in southern and central Greece.

The government closed most public services early at noon, as temperatures in the capital reached 109 degrees.

Italy also continued to bake. The heat wave has sparked two dozen forest fires in Sicily and Sardinia, as well as in the southern mainland regions. Temperatures in much of Italy were about 95 degrees on Tuesday morning, the weather service said. Colder winds were expected to bring some respite on Wednesday, according to forecasts.

High temperatures damaged electric cables and increased electricity demand, causing an overload in the power system of Sicily's capital, Palermo, Enel Spa power company said.

Albania, and Serbia have also been hit hard by the heat. Seven people in Serbia were reported to have died of heat-related causes.

In southern Romania, temperatures reached 104 F Tuesday. Large trucks were banned from national highways between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. to protect the softened road surfaces from damage.

In Bucharest, city personnel set up tents and offered drinking water and free blood pressure checks to residents. The ambulance service in Bucharest said 78 people had fainted in the street since Monday.

The south and eastern regions of Romania were experiencing the worst drought since 1945, and authorities issued fire alerts in affected areas.

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