British holidaymakers swelter in record-breaking European heatwave

     HOT PLUME Roasting air engulfing Spain and France is causing temperatures to soar

The highest temperature recorded Thursday, when the heat began to rise, was 45.2 C (113.4 F) near Abrantes, a town 150 kilometers (93 miles) northeast of the capital, Lisbon, the country's weather agency IPMA said.

A British Met Office meteorologist said the current record of 48C in Athens, Greece, in 1977 could be broken as a wave of blisteringly hot air sweeps in from Africa.

In Portugal, local media said temperatures could beat Death Valley in California, one of the world's hottest places.

In Europe Meteoalarm weather group has already released a "red" alert - classified as a very hazardous and unsafe to life - for the greater part of southern Portugal and Badajoz in the West of Spain.

In France the first Saturday in August is called "Black Saturday", with holiday traffic jams on all routes, this year accompanied by extreme heat.

Portugal has issued red alerts for extreme heat for more than half the country, with thermometers approaching 46 degrees Celsius (114.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

A building heat wave in Portugal and Spain threatens to topple national and all-time high temperature records in a continuation of a series of remarkable heat waves that have roasted the Northern Hemisphere this summer.

Tourists travelling from Ireland to Spain and Portugal this weekend should be especially careful due to the intense expected heat.

However, climatologist Fatima Espírito Santo of the Portuguese Institute of the Sea and the Atmosphere, told the Observador that the increase is not a heatwave, because the spell of higher temperatures will only last three days, not five.

'Tourists in Spain and Portugal clearly need to take care in such high temperatures.

Spain could beat its record of 47.3ºC set a year ago, and Portugal could go past its 47.4ºC record set in 2003.

Much of southern Europe is sweltering in near record-breaking temperatures with the mercury expected to exceed 45C (113F).

Wildfires have also raged in some parts of Europe, the most devastating occurring across Greece killing more than 90 people, and Sweden has battled dozens of fires as far north as the Arctic Circle. The country went on high alert in an effort to prevent a repeat of the worst fires in history previous year, which killed 114 people.

Two men died from heatstroke in Spain, with temperatures hitting a scorching 45°C in some areas and meteorologists saying only scant relief is in sight in the coming days.

Spanish authorities issued a heatwave warning for most of central Spain, expected to last until Sunday with temperatures of over 42C in some parts of Andalusia and Extremadura. EDF said the decision was made to avoid overheating the rivers.