Heat-related deaths continue to pile up as scorching temperatures continue to hit Europe.
In the Italian city of Lodi, southeast of Milan, a 44-year-old road sign worker collapsed and died due to extreme heat. In another incident, two brothers aged six and seven drowned in an irrigation basin near the town of Manfredonia, Italy, as they attempted to find relief from the intense heat by swimming.
"Heat is a silent killer. So this is the main concern that people's lives are at risk," warned climate scientist Hannah Cloke, stressing the urgency of the situation.
A new study published in the journal Nature Medicine warned that without effective adaptation plans, Europe could face over 68,000 premature deaths each summer through 2030 and more than 94,000 by 2040. Furthermore, the research revealed that nearly 62,000 people died as a result of heat-related illnesses between May 30 and September 4 last year.
Italy, with approximately 18,000 deaths, was the hardest-hit country, followed by Spain with over 11,000 deaths and Germany with around 8,000 deaths. The study also exposed the disproportionate impact of extreme heat on the elderly and women. The mortality rate due to heat-related illnesses was found to be 63 percent higher in women compared to men. Additionally, the death toll significantly increased for individuals aged 65 and over.
Joan Ballester, an epidemiologist at ISGlobal and the lead author of the study, emphasized the gravity of the situation. "It's a very big number," Ballester said.
The research is the first to specifically analyze the number of deaths caused by heat during the summer of 2022, contrasting with Eurostat's attempt to quantify the heatwave's death toll by tallying excess deaths.
Hicham Achebak, a co-author of the study and researcher at ISGlobal, emphasized the need to reassess and strengthen prevention plans. "The fact that more than 61,600 people in Europe died of heat stress in the summer of 2022, even though, unlike in 2003, many countries already had active prevention plans in place, suggests that adaptation strategies currently available may still be insufficient," Achebak noted.
After facing the deadly Cerberus heatwave, named after the three-headed monster guarding the gates of the underworld in Dante's Inferno, Europe is expected to experience another record-breaking high temperature for at least another week with the Charon heatwave.
The European Space Agency has announced that Italy should brace for a "major heatwave." The agency has predicted temperatures to soar as high as 48°C (118.4°F) on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. Meanwhile, red alert warnings have been issued by health authorities for several cities, including Rome, Florence and Bologna. (Related: Heatwaves, forest fires in Europe devastate crops and livestock.)
Greece, too, has taken swift action to combat the blistering temperatures. The government has implemented emergency measures, including work suspension between midday and 5 p.m. in high-risk areas, as well as remote work arrangements for employees with health conditions. Furthermore, access to nature reserves and forests has been strictly prohibited to prevent the outbreak of wildfires.
Croatia, meanwhile, is battling devastating wildfires. Emergency services are working tirelessly to control the rapidly spreading blazes, which severely threaten the country's natural resources and communities.
Having already experienced two intense heatwaves this summer, Spain braces for yet another round of scorching weather. Some regions in Spain have already reported temperatures reaching a staggering 60°C (140°F).
Spain is also facing an extreme risk of forest fires. Data from the Copernicus Emergency Management Service indicates that numerous wooded areas throughout mainland Spain and the Canary Islands are at high risk of igniting. Las Palmas in Gran Canaria is particularly vulnerable, while Tenerife and Fuerteventura also face extreme heat levels.
Visit Environ.news for more news related to heatwaves.