Heat scorches southern Europe

ATHENS, Jul 12, 2000 -- (Reuters) Wildfires devastated thousands of hectares (acres) of forests, farmland and scores of homes throughout the Balkans on Tuesday, but a cold snap from northern Europe promised relief for the scorched region.

The heat-wave sweeping the area has killed at least 25 people and sparked hundreds of forest fires. In Greece alone, about 150 blazes seared an estimated 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) of land before coming under control on Tuesday.

A huge forest fire on the Aegean island of Samos was still burning on three fronts but was under control on Tuesday, after killing a 95-year-old woman, ravishing a sixth of the island and destroying dozens of farm houses.

Blistering in temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius (104F) for over a week, the Balkans were anxious for a cold snap that has touched northern Europe to move south.

"We expect temperatures by Friday to be lower than average for the season...due to colder weather expected from northern Europe," a Greek weather service spokeswoman told Reuters.

After last week's soaring temperatures, it snowed in Italy on Tuesday while Germany and France enjoyed rain showers.

After a blistering June which made Germany one of Europe's hottest places, forcing its farmers to bring forward grain harvests, bursts of rain halved temperatures from last month's highs.

The wet spell affecting mostly western and southern Germany dampened spirits at this weekend's Love Parade party in Berlin, which failed to match last year's crowd of 1.5 million.

Torrential rain also hit Rome and the Sardinian capital Cagliari, where temperatures had touched 50 degrees Celsius (122F) last week.

Rains receded on Tuesday morning in Milan but flooding from the violent storms slowed traffic. The Stelvio pass, near Bormio, was covered with up to 20 cm (eight inches) of snow, requiring car chains.


Apart from the Mediterranean coast, in most parts of France residents put on sweaters and carried umbrellas as temperatures dipped to five or six degrees below seasonal averages.

"We had very nice temperatures in May and June but it's been unseasonably cool for the past week or so," said a spokesman for Meteo France, the state weather bureau.

Paris temperatures were around 16-19 degrees Celsius (60-68F) and snow fell as low as 1,500-1,600 meters (around 4,500 feet) in the Alps.

The spokesman said temperatures were expected to return to normal averages across France early next week.

In the sweltering Balkans, destructive forest fires were being checked and temperatures were expected to drop.

Bulgaria's Prime Minister Ivan Kostov said forest and crop fires were under control after a total of 8,400 hectares (20,760 acres) of crops and 3,100 hectares (7,660 acres) of forests had been burnt since July 3.

The heat wave in Romania was subsiding and the National Meteorological Institute (INM) forecast normal temperatures for the season, indicating an end to the country's worst drought in the century.

The INM predicted rainfalls across Romania in the days ahead and falling temperatures.

Original article