Britain’s record heat wave halted travel for a third day and firefighters remained on alert on Wednesday even as cloudy skies and showers brought relief after two days of scorching temperatures.
Forecasters predict London will hit a high of 26 degrees Celsius (79 degrees Fahrenheit) on Wednesday, down from the record high of 40.3C (104.4F) set in Coningsby in eastern Australia on Tuesday. England.
Yet the main train line from London to Edinburgh will remain closed until midday as crews work to repair power lines and signaling equipment damaged by a heat-related fire on Tuesday, according to London North Eastern Railway.
London firefighters had their busiest day since World War II on Tuesday, with firefighters receiving more than 2,600 calls and at one point battling 12 fires simultaneously, Mayor Sadiq Khan said. At least 41 properties in the city were destroyed, he said. Sixteen firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation and other injuries.
Even as temperatures began to cool overnight, smoke wafted through the air across the city of nearly 9 million people.
One of the biggest fires occurred in Wennington, a village on the east outskirts of London, where a row of houses was destroyed by a blaze that also swept through nearby dry fields.
Resident Tim Stock said he and his wife fled after the house next door caught fire and the blaze quickly spread.
“I didn’t get (my) driver’s license back, or birth certificates, anything, so I lost everything,” he told the i newspaper. “Photos, recordings, everything is gone, but the only good thing is that we are all fine.”
Dozens of places in Britain saw temperatures approach 40C (104F) on Tuesday, beating the UK’s previous record of 38.7C (101.7F), set in 2019. The weather hit a country completely unprepared for such heat, where few homes, schools or small businesses have air conditioning.
Despite lower temperatures on Wednesday, fire danger remains high as hot, dry weather has parched grasslands around the city, Khan said.
“Once it catches fire, it spreads incredibly fast, like wildfires like you see in the movies or the fires in California or parts of France…” Khan told the BBC. “I just spoke to the fire marshal. He is still concerned about the drying out of the ground and the rate at which the fire spreads.
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