London hits 100, European fires rage -- and the Pope prays for rain
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By Angela Doland
Aug. 10, 2003 | PARIS (AP) -- Melting Alpine glaciers unleashed a cascade of rocks, London choked in a record 100-degree temperatures and with wildfires raging in seven countries, the pope urged people to pray for rain.
Europe sizzled this weekend, and there was no immediate relief in sight for much of the continent. The heat also broke a record in Germany, and a French toddler died of exposure in a sweltering parked car.
With the mercury hovering around 100 degrees for days, more than 40 deaths have been blamed on the heat.
In the French Alps, a police officer warned hikers about rock avalanches along a popular route on Mont Blanc. Glacial ice is melting, loosening rocks from the mountainside. On Saturday, helicopters swooped into the area to evacuate 44 climbers in danger, police said.
In more arid regions, wildfires have blackened forests in Italy, France, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Croatia and the Netherlands.
Three separate fires were blazing in Portugal on Sunday, with the worst in the southern region of Algarve. Pinus Verde, an association of forest-product producers, analyzed satellite images from NASA to calculate forestland destroyed in two weeks of blazes: 741,316 acres, according to daily Publico.
In northeastern Italy, firefighters worked for a third-straight day to put out a fire in the countryside near Udine.
Pope John Paul II was spending time in a papal palace in Castel Gandolfo, a lakeside town generally cooler than Rome.
The pope told visiting tourists and pilgrims Sunday that he was worried about the drought-fed deadly wildfires.
``I invite all to join in my prayers for the victims of this calamity, and I exhort all to raise to the Lord fervent entreaties so that He may grant the relief of rain to the thirsty Earth,'' John Paul said.
A 3-year-old girl died Saturday in a car parked outside her parents' home in Wimille in northern France, authorities said.
The parents apparently lost track of who was watching her -- each thought the little girl was with the other, police said.
In Germany, authorities are predicting a new record number of drownings this year. Cash-strapped municipalities have closed free swimming pools, forcing more Germans to head to rivers and lakes to escape the heat, where there is less supervision.
Klaus Wilkens, president of the German Lifesaving Society, told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that his organization was predicting 700 deaths by drowning by the end of the summer, compared with 598 last year.
This weekend alone, at least three people drowned in Germany's rivers and lakes, including a 10-year-old girl.
``The closing of the pools must be stopped,'' Wilkens said.
The German weather service reported Sunday it had registered a new countrywide temperature record in the Bavarian city of Roth, which hit nearly 105 degrees on Saturday. The previous record of 104 was also in Bavaria, set in 1983.
Britons also gasped through a record-breaking day, watching thermometers climb above the 100 for the first time in Britain since temperatures have been recorded.
The record-breaker -- 100.22 degrees -- was measured at Heathrow Airport, near a parched and baking London, the national weather service said.
No quick relief was expected: Germany is expected to swelter until midweek; France is counting on at least another week of abnormally high temperatures; and weather experts in Italy expect the country to be steamy until September.