Britain’s first-ever extreme heat warning is in effect for large parts of England, and France continues to battle wildfires in the west and south.

Much of Europe is baking in a heatwave that has pushed temperatures into the mid-40s Celsius in some regions.
Much of Europe is baking in a heatwave that has pushed temperatures into the mid-40s Celsius in some regions. (Frank Augstein / AP)

Britain and France have gone on high alert, bracing for record temperatures from a punishing heatwave as deadly wildfires raging in parts of southwest Europe showed no sign of abating.

MeteoFrance, the country's national meteorological service said it was expecting the peak of the heatwave on Monday.

Parts of France are expected to experience temperatures 40 degrees Celsius and higher. Over the weekend, firefighters continued to battle to control forest blazes in the southwestern Gironde region.

Meanwhile, Britain issued its first-ever extreme heat warning for Monday and Tuesday for large parts of England as authorities prepare for record high temperatures that are already disrupting travel, health care and schools.

Temperatures may reach 40 degrees Celsius for the first time, posing a risk of serious illness and even death among healthy people, according to the UK Met Office, the country’s weather service. 

The highest temperature ever recorded in Britain is 38.7 degrees Celsius, a record set in 2019.

Scientists blame climate change and predict more frequent and intense episodes of extreme weather such as heatwaves and drought.

READ MORE: Thousands evacuated as wildfires spread further in southwest France

'Heat apocalypse'

The wildfires in France have forced more than 16,000 people — residents and tourists combined — to decamp. Seven emergency shelters have been set up for evacuees.

France's interior ministry announced it would send an extra three firefighting planes, 200 firefighters and more trucks.

"In some southwestern areas, it will be a heat apocalypse," meteorologist Francois Gourand said

Forecasters have put 15 French departments on the highest state of alert for extreme temperatures while London was accused of failing to take seriously the impending heat emergency as forecasters warned that lives were at risk.

In Britain, eyebrows were raised by comments from Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab appearing to welcome the likelihood of temperatures topping 40 degrees Celsius and Prime Minister Boris Johnson missing a meeting about the government's response to the heatwave.

"This isn't like a lovely hot day where we can put a bit of sunscreen on, go out and enjoy a swim and a meal outside," College of Paramedics chief executive Tracy Nicholls told Sky News.

The UK capital is expected to see the highest temperatures and mayor Sadiq Khan advised Londoners only to use public transport if "absolutely necessary".

Ambulance services are on crisis footing, and some schools in southern England have already said they will stay shut.

READ MORE: Wildfires rage across southwest Europe amid scorching weather 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies