Belgium and the Netherlands recorded their highest ever temperatures as a European heatwave soared towards its peak on Wednesday, impacting rail transport and prompting a spike in drownings with people taking to the water.
France saw its hottest-ever day on record last month, when a southern town reached 46 C (114.8 F). This technique is also used In countries where high temperatures are more commonplace, such as Italy, where engineers often paint the inside faces of the rails white to reflect the sunlight and lower the risk of buckling.
In the Netherlands, a new all-time record of 39,3 degrees was measured in Eindhoven on Wednesday.
In the Netherlands, 38.8C at Gilze-Rijen, in the south, smashed a record dating back 75 years. The temperature, recorded in Cambridge, beat the previously July record of 36.7 C (98.06°F) in 2015.
In Austria, a two-year-old died of dehydration on Wednesday in the country's Styria region after he climbed into an overheated parked vehicle without his family noticing.
The smog can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, and leave people coughing and short of breath.
The heat wave has been particularly brutal in the countryside, aggravating fires which have seen thousands of hectares of crops destroyed in northern and central France. The night from Thursday to Friday was the hottest ever recorded.
Experts advise they should keep windows closed and pull blinds down during the hottest part of the day.
In parts of north Germany, rivers and lakes have dried up - with warnings that fish and mussels could be "severely threatened".
In Paris, with public swimming pools overcrowded, many locals and tourists sought to cool off in public water features, notably the giant fountains at the Trocadero close to the Eiffel Tower.
Paris in particular remains haunted by the early summer of 2003 when 15,000 deaths were blamed on the heat and the authorities were bitterly criticised for not mobilising fast enough.
Since then the government has introduced a colour-coded heat alert system to warn people when temperatures are expected to rise to risky levels in their area and trigger government assistance efforts.
Temperatures were also expected to reach national all-time highs in the United Kingdom on Thursday, surpassing a 38.5°C record set in August 2003 but settled just slightly under with 38.1°C recorded in the afternoon in Cambridge. Other French cities, including Lille, Rouen, and Dijon, were also expected to break their temperature records on Thursday.
Messages to "Hydrate yourselves!" blared from the radio, TV and public message boards. Some 20 million French are expected to be hit by the heatwave, she said.
Since summers in Europe are usually mild, few homes have air conditioning.
Electric fans sold out across Paris - and traditional folding fans made a comeback on the city's stuffy metro.
German news agency dpa reports that some people returned tickets ahead of the opening of Germany's famous Bayreuth opera festival because of the sweltering weather.
Travelers faced a second day of travel disruptions in Britain on Friday after a heat wave gave way to thunderstorms, and technical problems at the air traffic control center grounded many flights at the country's two main airports on one of the busiest days of the year.
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