Eintime Conversion for education and research 10-20-2007 @ 07:24:19
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Killer heat bakes Europe

By Veronika Oleksyn, Associated Press Writer

VIENNA — A heat wave sweeping central and southeastern Europe has killed at least 13 people this week, with soaring temperatures causing forest fires and damaging crops, officials said Friday.

In Romania, where temperatures reached about 104°F Friday, the Health Ministry said at least nine people have died since Monday due to the heat wave.

In Austria, where highs in most parts of the Alpine country have hovered near or above 95°F for days, the health ministry said the deaths of three people in the country's south on Thursday were likely heat-related.

HIGH HEAT: 2007 global temperature the 2nd-warmest ever recorded

Also Thursday, a 56-year-old woman collapsed and died in downtown Zagreb, Croatia, of what doctors believed was a heat-related heart attack. Temperatures in the Balkan country reached about 104°F on Friday.

Elsewhere in the region, in parts of Slovakia and Hungary, authorities distributed free water in some cities.

In the eastern Hungarian town of Kiskunhalas, temperatures reached a record 107.4°F, according to the country's national weather center.

Firefighters in Greece, where the country's fire service on Thursday reported 115 fires in a 24-hour period, struggled to contain a blaze at an old army base near the capital Athens, where temperatures reached 105.8°F.

France, where the weather is normal for this time of year, is lending a hand to firefighters in Greece. Two Canadair firefighting planes left Friday morning for Greece and will return home Sunday night.

The heat has also sparked forest fires in parts of Italy, Romania and Bulgaria, where a state of emergency has been declared in the southern districts of Haskovo and Stara Zagora.

Strong winds and high temperatures are complicating efforts to contain the blazes and Bulgarian authorities have called on army and police units for help.

The extreme heat and lack of rain is also causing concern among farmers in the area.

In Romania, for example, an industry group estimates the agriculture sector has suffered damage worth over $2 billion due to a severe drought.

The League of Agricultural Producers called on the government to pay compensation for their losses and provide them with seed to help replant crops in the fall.

The government has so far declared a state of disaster in 34 out of 42 counties and has offered to pay compensation of up to $320 per affected hectare or about $140 per acre.

In Austria, the steady sunshine and lack of rain has also taken its toll on grapes in Burgenland, one of Austria's wine growing regions.

"In the vineyards, there are first signs of 'sunburn' damage," Franz Stefan Hautzinger, president of the region's agriculture chamber, was quoted as saying by the Austria Press Agency.

In contrast to the sweltering conditions in central and southeastern Europe, Britain experienced extreme weather of another sort on Friday, with more than a month's worth of rain falling in some areas.

Residents across the south of England reported flooded neighborhoods and London's Underground closed subway lines and stations across the city because of excess water.

Contributing: Associated Press writers across Europe contributed to this report.

(Original Len: 3685 Condensed Len: 3765)

10-20-2007 @ 07:24:19