Europe's Cerberus heatwave claims first life as worker dies in 40C heat and British tourist faints at Colosseum

12 July 2023, 09:24 | Updated: 12 July 2023, 09:29

Scorching temperatures are sweeping Europe
Scorching temperatures are sweeping Europe. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Emma Soteriou

The fierce heatwave sweeping Europe has claimed its first life after a road worker collapsed and died from the sweltering conditions.

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A 44-year-old road sign worker collapsed while on the job in Lodi, southeast of Milan, on Tuesday as temperatures surpassed 40C.

He slumped to the ground in front of colleagues and was quickly rushed off to hospital where he later died, local media said.

His death is believed to have been linked to the extreme heat currently making its way across the continent.

"The climate is a cause of accident and also of death. This is a situation that could be repeated given the temperatures," said the general secretary of Fenealuil Milan-Cremona-Lodi-Pavia, Salvatore Cutaia.

He added: "There is the redundancy fund, the suspension of work and the precautions that can be put in the pipeline.

"But unfortunately these actions have not been put in place and we find ourselves once again having to mourn a 44-year-old worker who has only done his job.

"We must question ourselves seriously and heavily sanction the responsibilities of an avoidable death."

Read more: When is the 40 degree heatwave? Met Office forecast soaring temperatures

Read more: 'Cerberus' heatwave brings searing temperatures to Europe with Italy set to surpass highs of 45C

A man drinks water from a fountain
A man drinks water from a fountain. Picture: Getty
Tourists sips cold water as they shelter from a hot sunny afternoon near the Rome's Colosseum
Tourists sips cold water as they shelter from a hot sunny afternoon near the Rome's Colosseum. Picture: Alamy

An anticyclone - named Cerberus - has seen temperatures soar well above 40C in Italy, with Sicily and Sardinia still predicted to reach highs of 47-48C.

The record for the highest temperature in European history was previously broken in August 2021, when 48C was recorded in Floridia in Sicily.

A man sheltering himself from the sun
A man sheltering himself from the sun. Picture: Getty
People queue to fill bottle with water at a public tap
People queue to fill bottle with water at a public tap. Picture: Getty

Thousands of holidaymakers visiting the Mediterranean are now being warned to be extra careful in the dangerous heat.

British tourists are among those to have been struggling with the rising temperatures in Italy this week, particularly in Rome.

One visitor, who has not been named, collapsed in front of the Colosseum on Tuesday before being passed bottles of water by passersby.

Some people were seen turning to the trees for shade while others used their shirts as parasols.

A boy refreshes himself at the Piazza della Rotonda fountain in Rome
A boy refreshes himself at the Piazza della Rotonda fountain in Rome. Picture: Getty
Tourists use umbrellas to shelter from the sun
Tourists use umbrellas to shelter from the sun. Picture: Alamy

Prof Luca Mercalli, the president of the Italian Meteorological Society, said: "We know that there will be temperatures above 40C or 45C.

"We could get close to the record. Either way, the levels will be very high."

It is no coincidence that the anticyclone has been named after Cerberus, the three-headed dog from Greek mythology that guards the gates to the underworld.

"Metaphorically, the three heads indicate the three main climatic zones into which Italy will be divided," meteorologist Stefano Rossi told Italian outlet La Stampa.

A man refreshes at the Baroque-style fountain 'Fontana della barcaccia' at the foot of the Spanish Steps in Rome's Piazza di Spagna
A man refreshes at the Baroque-style fountain 'Fontana della barcaccia' at the foot of the Spanish Steps in Rome's Piazza di Spagna. Picture: Alamy

A heatwave is also sweeping across France, Germany, Spain, Poland and Greece at the moment.

Greece is expected to see highs of 44C this week, with culture minister Linda Mendoni vowing to introduce special precautionary measures to protect tourists.

Spain is also forecast to see temperatures soar above 44C while France is expected to reach 37C.

But in the UK more than a week of rain is still on the cards before the hot weather returns.

From July 25th to August 8th, temperatures are predicted to become "slightly above average" with indications of "increasingly settled weather".

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