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Europe sizzles under stubborn heat wave that’s only going to get worse

Scorching temperatures across Europe forced the closure of the Acropolis in Athens for a second day as officials warned Saturday of even hotter weather next week, when the mercury is forecast to top 40 C in several popular Mediterranean tourist destinations.

Rome faced 35 C heat on Saturday, and scorching weather is set to intensify next week across southern Europe

A man fills a baseball hat with water and pours it over his head.

Scorching temperatures across Europe forced the closure of the Acropolis in Athens for a second day as officials warned Saturday of even hotter weather next week, when the mercury is forecast to top 40 C in several popular Mediterranean tourist destinations.

In cities, those venturing out at all drenched themselves in fountains while others sought out pools, the sea or shade in hopes of relief from the heat wave caused by Cerberus, a high-pressure anticyclone coming from the south that's named after the three-headed dog in ancient Greek mythology who guarded the gates to the underworld.

Fifteen cities in Italy, most of them in the country's centre and south, were under heat advisories signalling a high level of risk for older adults, the infirm, infants and other vulnerable people.

A hippopotamus snacks on a piece of watermelon at a zoo in Rome, Italy.

Temperatures remained in the mid-30s C across much of the Italian peninsula on Saturday but were expected to reach between 38 C and 40 C in Sardinia, Sicily and Puglia.

The cities under alerts included the tourist destinations of Bologna, Florence and Rome. The capital hit a high of 35 C on Saturday and was expected to see temperatures as high as 42 C on Tuesday, when other Italian cities could be even hotter.

Acropolis closed again

In Greece's capital, where the temperature was forecast to reach 41 C, officials decided to keep the sun-baked Acropolis monument closed from noon to 5:30 p.m. local time, as they did on Friday.

Volunteers pass out water bottles to senior citizens.

Czech temperatures soared to a new record high for any July 15. The thermometer hit 38.6 C at Plzen-Bolevec in western Czechia, up from the previous record of 36.8 C for this day set in Podebrady, east of Prague in 2007, the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute said.

Temperatures were milder in Spain's Canary Islands, but a wildfire on the island of La Palma caused a preventive evacuation of some 500 people. Officials warned that shifting winds and the area's rain-parched dry terrain could increase the number of evacuees.

A street sweeper takes a break to drink water, on a hot day in Ronda, Spain.

Nationwide, however, at least 30 of Spain's provincial capitals had projected daily high temperatures of 30 C or above, according to the website of AEMET, the state meteorology agency.

A half-dozen Spanish cities — Albacete, Córdoba, Granada, Lleida, Málaga and Zaragoza — were to see maximum temperatures of at least 37 C.

The European Space Agency, whose satellites monitor land and sea temperatures, has warned that Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Poland are all facing extreme conditions.

Authorities in Poland warned older adults in particular to stay indoors or in the shade and well-hydrated as temperatures reached 35 C on Saturday.

People are seen cooling off at fountains in Warsaw, Poland.

In downtown Warsaw and in other cities, makeshift hose fountains were arranged to let people and their pets cool off. Police issued warnings about not leaving children or pets unattended inside cars.

Doctors in Spain warned that poorer elderly people with existing health problems were most at risk.

"They suffer from heart issues, chronic bronchitis, stroke, kidney failure," said Angel Abad, a preventative medicine and public health specialist at Madrid's La Paz hospital.

People walk barefoot in a fountain.

Joan Ballester, a professor at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, said France had learned lessons from a deadly 2003 heat wave that countries such as Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal could follow.

"Basically, the most affected are Italy, Greece, then Spain and Portugal. These are countries that are also characterized by economic conditions that are not as advanced as the rest of the continent," she said.

The 2003 heat wave was blamed for about 70,000 deaths across the continent, while it's believed that more than 60,000 Europeans died due to extreme heat last summer.

A woman uses an umbrella to shelter from the sun in Nicosia, Cyprus.

In Turkey, coastal cities in the south and southwest reached the high 30s and low 40s. The tourism hot spot of Antalya saw a high of 44 C.

In the northwestern cities of Edirne, Kirklareli and Tekirdag, 48 people were taken to emergency rooms with symptoms of heat stroke in the past two days, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Relentless heat in parts of U.S.

Extreme heat was also baking much of the United States on Saturday, with one in three Americans under some kind of heat advisory.

A close-up view of a water jug being filled in Phoenix, Arizona.

The heat was forecast to get worse this weekend for Nevada, Arizona and California, where desert temperatures were predicted to soar past 48.8 C during the day in some areas, and remain above 32.2 C overnight.

Over the past two weeks, the mercury has hit 43 C or higher every afternoon in Phoenix, Ariz., a streak of extreme temperatures that could stretch into next week, breaking the city's 1974 record of 18 consecutive days, forecasters say.

With files from CBC News and Reuters

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