LONDON, July 1 (UPI) -- Roads melted, train schedules were disrupted and emergency calls rose Wednesday as Britain endured its hottest July day on record.
The official temperature of 36.7 degrees Celsius (98 degrees Fahrenheit) broke a record set in 2006, and prompted a Level 3 "heatwave action" to be declared by the Meteorological Office.
The British motoring assistance group AA reported roads melting in the heat and an increase in traffic jams and drivers in need of help. The heat may have contributed to a fire aboard a truck, carrying explosives, on the M1 superhighway in Derbyshire; the fire stalled traffic on the busy road for hours Wednesday. Green Flag, another agency serving motorists with car breakdowns, said it expected an emergency call every 70 seconds. East Anglia reported high air pollution levels, and the London Ambulance Service said calls involving fainting people increased by 35 percent over the same day last year.
Network Rail, owner of most of Britain's railroad infrastructure, said speed restrictions were enforced, and some train trips delayed or cancelled, by fears of buckling train tracks. The annual tennis tournament at Wimbledon, a suburb of London, went on as scheduled despite the searing heat.
At least one death has been attributed to the heat wave, that of a man who drowned while swimming Tuesday in a Suffolk reservoir.
Weather alerts were issued across Western Europe, as Britain, Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and northern Italy expect temperatures to reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) this week.
High temperatures led to loss of electricity to between 600,000 and one million homes in France's Brittany and Pays de la Loire regions, and the national government, sensitive to repercussions from a 2003 heatwave in Western Europe in which 20,00 people – mostly elderly, living in isolated areas – died, activated its emergency plans. Southwestern France endured temperatures of 42 degrees Celsius (107 degrees Fahrenheit), and Cordoba, Spain recorded nearly 44 degrees Celsius (111.2 degrees Fahrenheit).