Hot weekend for Europe, officials warn of extreme fire risk

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People flocked to parks and pools across Western Europe on Saturday for a bit of respite from an early heat wave that saw the mercury rise above 40 degree Celsius (104 F) in France and Spain, and highs of 38 degree Celsius (100.4 F) in Germany.

Officials warned of wildfires across the western Mediterranean region as high temperatures and a long dry spell made for combustible conditions.

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The European Commission's Copernicus Emergency Management Service said the fire risk was “extreme” and “very extreme” in much of Spain, the Rhone river valley in France, Sardinia, Sicily and parts of mainland Italy.

The 27-nation bloc has put 12 firefighting planes and a helicopter on standby to assist countries struggling with major blazes this summer.

Meteorologists in France described the situation as “really exceptional” and predicted that a peak of 43 degree Celsius could be reached Saturday before thunderstorms bring cooler weather in from the Atlantic.

Experts say the early heat wave is a sign of what's to come as climate change makes extreme temperatures normally seen only in July and August more likely in June too.

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