The world is hot, the world is bothered

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The Independent Online
MON DIEU, what a scorcher. Britain is not alone in enjoying, or suffering, a blisteringly hot summer this year.

Across the northern hemisphere, from France to Japan, weather records are melting (along with roads and, in the Czech Republic, railway lines).

Beer, ice-cream and mineral water sales are booming; sudden deaths, especially drownings, are surging; official weather persons are denying that anything very unusual is going on.

In Tokyo, which recorded its highest-ever temperature on Wednesday (39C), tens of thousands of chickens died of heat stroke. In St Petersburg (a modest 26C) the director of the Yubileiny ice stadium locked himself in his office after his rink melted, forcing postponement of this week's Goodwill Games figure skating event.

In Berlin (38C), prisoners went on hunger strike to complain of the sti-

fling heat in their cells. In Bruges (31C), frustrated male prisoners complained that their female fellow-inmates were compounding the heat crisis by sunbathing topless.

In Denmark (30C), social workers have blamed the heatwave for a 30 per cent increase in children being left behind in bars by drunken parents. In the Czech Republic (29C) railway tracks have twisted out of shape, forcing the state railways to order a 38mph speed limit in the afternoons.

In Germany (29C), the opposition SPD accused Chancellor Helmut Kohl of 'ecological colonialism' for failing to reduce summer smog. Emboldened by fears of high, car-fume-generated ozone levels, the SPD suggested an attack on a German holy-of-holies: it called for speed limits on autobahns.

At the weekend, the German Environment Minister, Klaus Topfer, wondered aloud whether this could be the beginning of the much-heralded Global Warming from carbon dioxide pollution of the atmosphere. He was slapped down by the German Weather Service. Echoed by metereological experts across the globe, the German weathermen said it was 'too early to tell'.

Officially, the hot weather is attributed to a series of high pressure areas from the Atlantic, sucking air upwards from the Mediterranean. Britain is enduring its second hottest summer for three centuries. But the Met Office remains unflappable: 'Temperatures have been above average but not so much that you could say there was a warming trend - these heatwaves happen from time to time.'

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