Publication Date June 26, 2019

Heatwave 'hell' claims first lives as temperatures soar above 40 degrees Celsius across Europe

French emergency services are urging bathers to enter water gradually to avoid potential deadly 'thermic shock' to the body, which can shut down due to rapid temperature changes. Credit: Rex, Gian Ehrenzeller, EPA

The heatwave sweeping through Europe and likened to “hell”has claimed its first lives as temperatures surpassed 40 degrees Celsius on several parts of the continent.

Three swimmers at beaches in France are thought to have died of “hydrocution” - suffering a cardiac arrest when coming into contact with water due to the temperature difference, according to local reports.

A man aged 70 died after jumping into cool water at Marseillant beach, southern France, According to Midi Libre, he was helped out and remained “very calm” but emergency service then failed to resuscitate him when he lost consciousness. Two other people died in similar circumstances of "thermal shock".

A woman, 62, died at Frontignan beach near Montpellier after “having a malaise and drowning” and a man aged 75 also died at another beach nearby called Carnon.

French firemen warned people to enter the water gradually to accustom the body to temperature changes or risk hydrocution in which blood vessels dilated by the heat contract suddenly, raising the risk of cardiac arrest.

In the Baltic region of northeast Europe, crowds have flocked to lakes and rivers to cool down, leading to a spike in drownings - some also thought to be due to such thermic shocks. 

Twenty-seven people were reported to have drowned so far in Lithuania where the temperature soared to an unseasonable high of 35.7C.

In Poland, the interior ministry said that 90 people had drowned this month swimming in lakes and rivers during the exceptionally hot weather.