France has hit its all-time heat record at 45.9C (114.4F) as an unprecedented heatwave continues to roast much of the continent.
The southern region of Gallargues-le-Montueux saw the mercury reach the astonishing high on Friday, hours after the first new peak of the day was set at 45.1C (113.1F) in nearby Villevieille.
Before the record stood at 44.1C (111F), which was set in August 2003.
Temperatures have been comfortably north of 40C (104F) across France, forcing authorities to raise the national danger alert status to red – the highest level.
It is the first time since a graded heat danger system was introduced – following a deadly fortnight-long heatwave that engulfed Europe in 2003 – that the country has used the top alert.
About 4,000 schools closed because they could not ensure safe conditions, and local authorities cancelled many end-of-school-year carnivals.
Some criticised the government for going overboard, but Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said it was a justified response to a heatwave that was “exceptional by its intensity and its earliness”.
He added: “Measures have been taken for the most vulnerable people. But given the intensity of the heatwave, it’s the entire population who must be careful today – both for oneself and for loved ones and neighbours.”
Spain, Italy and Switzerland have followed suit in enforcing the red alert level, with the former having seen its Catalonia region face up to its worst wildfire in two decades amid temperatures of 41C (105.8F).
Hundreds of firefighters have been battling the flames, which have spread across 5,500 hectares (12,590 acres) of hilly terrain and so far forced dozens of people to evacuate their homes.
Authorities say the blaze was likely caused by high temperatures combusting improperly stored chicken manure on a local farm, with continued heat, low humidity and wind subsequently fanning the flames.
Heat was also blamed for the deaths of two people in Spain, private news agency Europa Press reported.
An 80-year-old man collapsed and died in the street in Valladolid, in north-west Spain, the agency said, and a 17-year-old boy died in the southern city of Cordoba after diving into a swimming pool and losing consciousness.
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