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The Latest: Hundreds of workers battle Portuguese wildfire

August 3, 2018
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People cool off in an urban beach at Madrid Rio park in Madrid, Friday, Aug. 3, 2018. Spain's Meteorological Agency says eight provinces in the southern Andalusia region and around Madrid are under high risk because of the heat wave hitting the country starting on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — The Latest on the extreme heat in Europe (all times local):

5:25 p.m.

Some 400 firefighters and five water-dropping aircraft are battling a wildfire in southern Portugal.

The blaze broke out Friday afternoon near the town of Monchique, in rolling hills that extend back from popular beaches in the country’s Algarve region.

The Civil Protection Agency says the fire is running through eucalyptus forests and dense undergrowth in a sparsely inhabited area.

The Algarve region has largely escaped the worst of a heatwave gripping Portugal and Spain, which has brought temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit). The temperature around Monchique was 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 Fahrenheit)

Portugal sees large wildfires every year, although unseasonably cool weather through the end of July has meant fewer blazes in 2017. The government says only about 15 percent of the 10-year average area has been charred so far this year.

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2:50 p.m.

The international Red Cross is calling on people in European countries affected by the heatwave to check on older relatives and neighbors as temperatures soar.

Several places in Portugal saw record temperatures this week, peaking well above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), and the heat is expected to rise still further.

The regional health coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Dr. Davron Mukhamadiev, said Friday that “if the temperatures climb even higher this will be dangerous, especially for vulnerable people.”

Mukhamadiev added in a statement: “If you have older relatives or neighbors, giving them a call or visiting could save a life.”

The organization said that, in some places, Red Cross volunteers are going door-to-door to check on people who might struggle to cope.

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11:30 a.m.

Sweden’s Civil Contingencies Agency is warning of “a high risk” for wildfires in central and southern Sweden this weekend because of the dry and warm weather.

“In addition to extremely high fire risks, we also have a forecast with very strong winds. The combination poses a greater danger to life and health as the area is densely populated,” the government agency’s operating director Jakob Wernerman said.

The Scandinavian country has over the past weeks had dozens of wildfires, mostly in central, western and northern Sweden, and foreign firefighters helped their Swedish colleagues.

The fires have since died down and firefighters from France, Germany and Portugal left Monday, at the same time as residents from a small town near the Arctic Circle who had been evacuated because of the wildfires were allowed to return home.

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11:20 a.m.

Britain’s long, hot summer has taken its toll on the country’s flowers.

Supermarket chain Morrisons has begun selling “wonky” flowers that have not developed properly because of the hot, dry weather. The chain is offering bouquets with shorter stems or smaller flowers at a reduced price.

The blooms join a range of misshapen produce sold by the retailer at discount rates, part of a program to reduce waste.

Drew Kirk, Morrisons’ director for flowers, says “it would be a shame to see these beautiful stems go to waste just because they’re a few centimeters too short.”

The U.K.’s Met Office weather service says July was the country’s third-warmest in more than a century, with the temperature passing 35 Celsius on July 26. The warm weather is continuing, with temperatures forecast to reach 30 degrees Celsius in southern Britain on Friday.

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10:25 a.m.

Portugal’s weather agency says eight places in the center, south and east of the country have broken their local temperature records amid a heatwave.

The IPMA says the highest temperature recorded Thursday was 45.2 degrees Celsius (113.4 Fahrenheit) near Abrantes, a town 150 kilometers (93miles) northeast of the capital, Lisbon.

Temperatures in Portugal are forecast to keep building on Friday, to around 45 degrees, and peaking at 47 degrees in some places on Saturday.

Portugal’s highest temperature ever recorded was 47.4 degrees (117.3 Fahrenheit) in 2003.

Meteorologists say temperatures are being driven higher by a hot air mass moving northward from Africa, which is also bringing dust from the Sahara Desert.

Emergency services have issued a red alert, placing extra services such as medical staff and firefighters on standby through Sunday.

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