Brussels: A heatwave affecting much of Europe is expected to intensify further after Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic recorded their highest-ever June temperature on Wednesday.
Some countries, including France and Switzerland, expect temperatures above 40C (104F) on Thursday.
Meteorologists say exceptionally hot air drawn in from northern Africa is to blame for the European heatwave.
French officials have issued stark warnings about the risk to life.
The heat is expected to rise further in many places over the next three days, meteorologists say.
In parts of north-eastern Spain, temperatures may reach 45C on Friday. Spanish officials have also warned of a “significant risk” of forest fires in some areas.
France was traumatised by a heatwave in 2003 that was blamed for 15,000 extra deaths.
Nearly all of the country is now on orange alert – the second-highest warning level – with local authorities issuing advice on how to keep cool.
Several cities, including Paris and Lyon, have restricted traffic to try and reduce the effects of pollution. In Paris fountains connected to hydrants have been set up.
In Toulouse, where temperatures are expected to reach 41C on Thursday, charities have been handing out water to homeless people.
Because of the unusually warm weather, some French schools have delayed important exams and even closed to pupils altogether.
The heat is also affecting France’s 72,000-strong prison population. François Bes, a prison monitor, told BFMTV that many detainees describe their cells as “ovens”.
“It’s impossible to create a draft because by definition prisoners can’t open the doors,” he is quoted as saying. One major prison near Paris, Fresne, has decided to hose down the yard to cool it.
Temperatures have been climbing in recent days – but are expected to get even hotter in some places towards the end of the week.
On Wednesday, Coschen in Brandenburg peaked at 38.6C – a new German record for June.
Radzyn in Poland and Doksany in the Czech Republic also recorded new national highs, with temperatures hitting 38.2C and 38.9C respectively.
Parts of France and Switzerland also recorded their local all-time highest temperatures ever. Even in the high-altitude Alps, temperatures topped 30C in places.
While the UK will avoid the worst heat, parts of the country – including London – are expected to see temperatures top 30C on Saturday.
Linking a single event to global warming is complicated.
While extreme weather events like heatwaves occur naturally, experts say these will happen more often because of climate change.
Records going back to the late 19th Century show that the average temperature of the Earth’s surface has increased by about one degree since industrialisation.
A climatology institute in Potsdam, Germany, says Europe’s five hottest summers since 1500 have all been in the 21st Century.
Scientists are concerned that rapid human-induced warming has serious implications for the stability of the planet’s climate.