Temperatures soar in eastern Europe

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The Independent Online

Officials in the Balkans are trying to cope with a near-record heat wave as temperatures soar across much of eastern Europe, with wildfires raging and people fainting on the streets.

Authorities in Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Albania issued heat warnings Thursday for people to stay indoors and drink water to avoid hyperthermia.

Doctors in Belgrade said emergency teams have received over 600 calls since Wednesday from residents feeling sick from the heat.

"People are collapsing and falling on the streets," said emergency clinic doctor Zeljko Bacevic.

One of the hottest spots was in Montenegro, where high temperatures prompted authorities to recommend working hours be cut to skip the midday heat. Temperatures in Montenegro's capital Podgorica reached 41 degrees Celsius (106 Fahrenheit) on Thursday, capping one of the longest hot periods in the tiny Adriatic sea state in the last 50 years.

In Macedonia, authorities said people older than 60 and pregnant women should not go to work. In Bosnia, workers' unions urged construction companies to pull their employees from open air construction sites.

In the central Bosnian city of Mostar, temperatures soared to 45 Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) on Wednesday as kids jumped on melting asphalt, leaving their footprints in the streets.

"The only way to deal with this is in the river," said Mostar high school student Semir Hebib. "I sleep on my balcony and in the morning I go and sit next to or in the Neretva river till the evening."

In the south of Bosnia, an increasing number of people are suffering from stomach infections, doctors said.

"High temperatures are ideal for bacterial infections caused by the consumption of spoiled food," said doctor Dijana Mamic, the head of a hospital in the town of Livno. She said the town had over 50 cases this week.

This week authorities in Romania's capital Bucharest put up 14 first aid tents to offer people help during the heat.

Montenegro and Albania are fighting several wildfires near their capitals and on the Adriatic Sea coastline, but no major injuries or damage have been reported.

Meteorologists say the current temperatures in the Balkans are some 10 degrees Celsius higher that the average for this time of year. They add that the heat wave which has arrived from northern Africa is expected to last for several more days.