Britain swelters in record temperatures of 35.9C ... and there is more to come

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From camel racing at a Derbyshire town fête to emergency deliveries of snow to over-heated otters in Birmingham, it soon became apparent yesterday that Britain was officially in the grip of a heatwave.

From camel racing at a Derbyshire town fête to emergency deliveries of snow to over-heated otters in Birmingham, it soon became apparent yesterday that Britain was officially in the grip of a heatwave.

As record after record was broken, the nation promptly set about acclimatising itself to a heat more suited to the tropics,

In cities, tourists sought relief by diving into fountains while residents and workers flocked to parks and lidos.

Resorts and beaches were packed with those desperate to escape from the inner-city humidity. However, from cities to the coast, there was one common aim: to find the most effective way to cool down.

In London, temperatures hit an uncomfortable 35.4C (95F) yesterday, making it the hottest day on record to date.

The tourism industry was also affected, as the London Eye, one of the capital's most popular attractions, took the unprecedented decision of closing in order to protect the "comfort of the guests".

However, the guards at Buckingham Palace failed to disappoint the tourists. Sweating profusely, they stood to attention in full regalia.

As Britons struggled to cope with the heat, animals in zoos across the country were also attempting to acclimatise, with varying degrees of success.

At London Zoo, handlers kept bears cool by feeding them iced snacks. At the National Sea Life Centre in Birmingham, more urgent measures were required. Its resident otters cooled off in snow delivered by refrigerated lorry from an indoor skiing centre.

One town appeared particularly well-prepared for the unexpectedly tropical weather. Camel racing topped the bill at the annual country show in Bakewell, Derbyshire, attracting record crowds.

With a backdrop of agricultural stalls and rural events, jockeys sporting Arab dress sprinted across the showground on camel-back.

A spokeswoman said: "Usually we would expect around 50,000 people over two days, but we are confident we will top that. The weather has definitely helped, as have the camels. Though it is very warm here today, we have had a great breeze, so people have been able to cool down."

However, the sun brought nothing more than misery yesterday for many of the three million commuters travelling to work in London.

Trains were delayed for a third successive day as the heatwave led to further speed restrictions on the rail network. Delays were caused mostly by fears that the heat would cause steel rails to buckle.

Motorists were also warned by the AA against the danger of driving in the heatwave due to melted road surfaces.

Even Concorde was not immune from the effects of the heatwave. One supersonic jetwas forced to stop over in Gander, Canada, en route to New York. High temperatures meant that the aircraft needed more fuel to complete its journey.

The jet, which travels at twice the speed of sound, took an extra 90 minutes to complete its journey from London, which normally takes three hours and 20 minutes. A British Airways spokesman said: "When it gets this hot, Concorde has to carry more fuel because the air it is travelling through is of a higher pressure.

"It is unusual, but this is certainly not the first time it has happened because of the hot weather."

Two men also died yesterday. Christopher Jones, 17, from Pontefract, West Yorkshire, drowned after swimming in a lake near a building site in Whitchurch, Hampshire.

A second man, Mark Attwood, 17, also drowned after going for a swim with a group of eight boys on a treacherous stretch of water in the Parkgate area of Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

A girl aged six was in a critical condition after she was found floating face down in a lake packed with children at Market Bosworth water park in Leicestershire.

Meanwhile, the heatwave caused considerable disruption to the legal system yesterday, as two trials were adjourned at Leicester Crown Court.

In one case, Judge John Burgess told the jury that the indecent assault trial would have to be adjourned because temperatures were creeping up to 25C.

"I understand the air conditioning system cannot cope with the temperatures endured today," he told the panel. "It would be far more humane to send you home and start again tomorrow."

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