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Europe battles extreme heat

Russia is sending two more aircraft and three helicopters to Greece to help local rescuers tackle forest fires. They're the result of a heat wave which is crippling parts of Europe and claiming hundreds of lives. Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece have praised R

A killer heat wave is ravaging Southern Europe and has already taken hundreds of lives. In the last week alone 500 people died in the hardest hit country, Hungary, from heat related causes.

With raging blazes the death toll is rising day by day.

“I went unconscious. I don't know what happened. I saw the fire and we all got scared. I can't say anything else because I still don't feel well,” Nicoletta Fasanella, survivor of the fires, said.  

The temperatures have soared for days on end and electric grids are close to breaking point. In Greece people are being asked to limit their use of air conditioners to ease the pressure. Outdoor work has been stopped in some countries.

The causes of fire are not only as a result of the high temperatures and accidents but also criminal activity. It's been known that people sometimes set alight trees to make way for villas, hotels or new pastures.

Soldiers and volunteers are joining forces with firefighters but their efforts are not enough.

Within minutes after receiving a telephone call from the Greek Prime Minister Russia's President Vladimir Putin ordered firefighting helicopters and planes to be sent to Greece which is struggling with large forest fires.

A large Russian aircraft has helped extinguish flames in Bulgaria and is now working in Serbia where 2,000 hectares have already been scorched.

On Thursday the Russian air firefighters managed to discharge over three hundred tonnes of water. The Russian plane is used in hard to reach forest areas and carries some 40 tonnes on board. And now the plane is working in Serbia.

“We needed the help of Russians as firefighters cannot reach those areas. That's why our government has asked Russia for assistance,” Vladan Kosich, Serbian pilot, explained. 

The seasonal Atlantic winds are to blame not only for the heat waves in Southern Europe but also for the floods in the UK, the worst seen there in sixty years.

The question that many are now asking is whether the heat will move to the north where people are not used to such temperatures, or fizzle out altogether.