Britain braced for another sizzler

Baking Britain was set to hit record temperatures again today as the country sweltered in the grip of heatwave conditions.

Temperatures soared to 31.8C (89.24F) in Wisley, Surrey, yesterday, as June became the hottest month in three years.

With the heatwave hitting areas around London hardest, legions of workers swapped their suit trousers for shorts and took extended lunch breaks to make the most of the weather.

Staff should be encouraged to wear shorts during the sweltering heat to make work more bearable and prevent them "collapsing" at their desks, the TUC urged.

The weather has prompted the Government to set up a heatwave advice page on its own Directgov website as NHS Direct received hundreds of calls from patients suffering symptoms related to the heat.

Gareth Harvey, a forecaster for MeteoGroup, the weather arm of the Press Association, said today could match yesterday - the hottest day of the year.

He said: "This has been the hottest week we have had in several years. Areas of west London could be hottest."

NHS Direct received 378 calls on Monday from people suffering symptoms related to the heat.

As the capital's heatwave saw temperatures even higher than Bangkok, Trafalgar Square's fountains turned green as algae spread.

Animals were also receiving help to stay cool. Staff at London Zoo were feeding gorillas ice blocks, monkeys at Bristol Zoo were enjoying ice cream, while tapirs at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park near Ashford, Kent, were daubed with suncream by keepers.

The last month has been the hottest, driest and sunniest since July 2006.

The average maximum temperature ranged from 22.3C at Heathrow airport to 12.9C at Fair Isle, between Orkney and Shetland, while the average minimum temperature varied between 12.7C at St James's Park in London to 6C at Altnaharra in Sutherland.

The weather has sent sales of electrical fans and ice-cream soaring.

Martin Doherty, commercial manager at Tesco, said: "This week's sunshine has meant that demand for fans has soared, and with more hot weather on the way, we would expect other summer products to be off the shelves."

David Whiffen, Sainsbury's ice cream buyer, said: "We're expecting the best week for ice cream since the heat wave of 2006."

Keepers at Bristol Zoo Gardens took the unusual step of feeding their macaque monkeys ice cream cones, topped with carrot sticks as flakes.

John Partridge, Bristol Zoo Gardens' senior curator of animals, said: "Giving fruit or fish with ice to our animals is a great way of helping them to keep cool in this hot weather.

"It is also an interesting treat for them."

A London Zoo spokeswoman said: "In this really hot weather we give the gorillas ice lollies which we make in buckets.

"We put fruit inside the ice lollies which they try to get out by standing on the blocks.

"Our gorilla group also have air conditioning inside their enclosure so they can go inside and outside into the heat as they please."

Businesses said Andy Murray's progress at Wimbledon was posing a greater threat to employees' attendance.

A spokesman for the British Chambers of Commerce said: "On the whole, it's business as usual during the hot weather.

"In reality, it's the progress of Andy Murray at Wimbledon that risks employees slinking off a little earlier than usual."