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Europe hit by heat and flood

BUCHAREST: A searing heatwave has killed at least 44 people across southern Europe while in Britain torrential rain claimed three lives and forced hundreds to flee a creaking dam. Twenty-nine deaths have been blamed on the heat in Romania where temperatures yesterday hit 45¡C, four in Greece, three each in Italy and Albania and at least five in Bosnia, Croatia and Turkey.

Bucharest was Europe's hottest capital on Tuesday with temperatures at 45¡C but a heat alert was sounded for much of the south of the country.

Temperatures were expected to hit 44¡C in Athens and the government urged the public to save power as electricity consumption hit new highs on Monday. The Greek military has suspended all exercises.

Temperatures in Bulgaria had hit a new record 42¡C yesterday and dozens of heat casualties have also been reported.

Authorities in seven Turkish provinces have given two or three days of leave to handicapped or pregnant civil servants, a news agency said.

Italian firefighters have dropped tanks of water from aircraft in a bid to control more than 30 forest fires after temperatures in the south topped 45¡C.

The fires are concentrated in Sicily where they have been fanned by the Sirocco winds coming off the Mediterranean. At least three elderly people have died because of the heat across Italy, according to media reports, while fires have damaged homes near Palermo in Sicily and there have been electricity cuts across the south.

Northern Europe, meanwhile, is suffering from torrential downpours.

Three people have died in floods in England and hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes because torrential threatened to cause a dam to burst. A bridge collapsed in western England.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the country faced "a difficult situation" as flood defences struggled against the weather. Authorities in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, told people living near Ulley Dam to leave their homes after receiving a warning that the walls could collapse.



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