UK heatwave: Prince Charles warns of emergency as weather stops trains and melts runways

Runways melted in the heatwave as a Met Office expert said warnings of 41C felt “unreal” and “crazy”.

England had its hottest day of the year on Monday with 38.1C (100.4F) recorded in Santon Downham, Suffolk, closing in on the all-time UK record of 38.7C in Cambridge in July 2019. A high of 38.5C was reached in Faversham, Kent, in August 2003, making yesterday the third hottest day on record.

Wales has provisionally recorded its hottest day on record, with the temperature reaching 37.1C in Hawarden, Flintshire.

Temperatures are forecast to hit a possible 41C (105.8F) in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and 40C in London.

Luke Miall, Met Office meteorologist, said: “I’ve been a qualified meteorologist for ten years, and telling people about 41C in the UK doesn’t seem real. It’s crazy how we are talking about these sorts of values, I’ve never seen the models coming up with these values.”

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The Prince of Wales said that the “alarming” temperatures across Britain and Europe are a warning that the climate crisis is a genuine emergency.

In a speech in Cornwall, he said that the “inordinate heat” was “rather a mad dogs and Englishmen going out in the midday sun moment”.

Ministers warned that this afternoon is the “point of maximum concern” amid fears thousands of elderly Britons could die in sweltering temperatures. They are “learning lessons” from the French heatwave of 2003, when 14,000 people died, mainly vulnerable older adults.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “The next few days will stretch the health service to the maximum. Our buildings and estate are ill equipped to deal with these kinds of temperatures.”

The transport network wilted in the heat yesterday with runways at Luton Airport and RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, closed as the tarmac melted.

Council gritter trucks were deployed to put sand on roads melting in the heat.

Speed restrictions will be tightened on the rail network today after rails buckled and power lines sagged.

Trains will be limited to 60mph and the East Coast Main Line between London King’s Cross and York and Leeds will be closed from midday to 8pm. Only a skeleton service will run in the morning.

Most of England is at “exceptional risk” of wildfires, the Met Office said, as the Peak District National Trust said it was closing access to some areas because of the high risk of blazes.

Prince Charles highlighted his concerns about the record temperatures at a garden party at Boconnoc near Lostwithiel. He said: “If I may so say, those commitments around net zero have never been more vitally important as we all swelter under today’s alarming record temperatures across Britain and Europe.

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“As I have tried to indicate for quite some time, the climate crisis really is a genuine emergency and tackling it is utterly essential — for Cornwall, the country and the rest of the world.”

4 hours ago 8.35pm

Teenager believed to have drowned in River Thames

A 14-year-old boy is believed to have drowned after getting into difficulty in the River Thames at Richmond, southwest London.

Police were called at 4.43pm to reports that a child had been seen to enter the water at Tagg’s Island in Hampton but he could not be found. The island is used for the mooring of luxury houseboats.

Superintendent Richard Smith, from the South West Command Unit, said: “I know that on days like today when temperatures are at a record high, it might look appealing to jump in and cool off in rivers, reservoirs, lakes or other open water.

“Please don’t.

The dangers are real and this evening in Richmond we have seen the terrible consequences of what happens when it goes wrong.”

Earlier today a 16-year-old boy disappeared in Bray Lake, near Maidenhead, Berkshire. His body was found at 1.30pm.

The deaths followed several other water-related deaths over recent days.

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Robert Hattersley, 13, was reported missing after getting into difficulty in the River Tyne near Ovingham, Northumberland, on Sunday afternoon. His clothes were found on the river bank and his body was recovered by police following an extensive search.

The family of the schoolboy from Crawcrook, Tyne and Wear, said: “Robert was so kind and loving.

We are absolutely devastated by what has happened.

“He brought a smile to so many people’s faces and he will be missed by absolutely everyone who knew and loved him.”

Kalen Waugh, 16, died after he was seen struggling in the water at Salford Quay, Greater Manchester, while swimming with friends at around 6.15pm on Saturday. His body was recovered that night.

Detective Inspector Joanne Johnston, of Greater Manchester Police, said: “We remind the public to avoid being tempted to cool off in reservoirs, rivers, canals or ponds.”

Police in Leeds urged people to stay away from dangerous bodies of water following the death of a 50-year-old man at Ardsley reservoir.

Officers were called to a report that a local man had got into difficulty in the water at 5.30pm on Saturday. His body was found on Sunday.

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A 37-year-old man was pulled from the sea near Brighton pier, East Sussex, on Saturday evening.

He died in hospital.

An eyewitness told the Brighton Argus: “I saw him being dragged out of the water and CPR being administered. The ambulance staff and police were there within two or three minutes.” 7 hours ago

5.15pm

Families head to coast to cool off in sea breeze

Families living in the “red zone” of the extreme heat warning have taken their children out of school and fled hundreds of miles to cool off at the coast.

Bournemouth beach was packed today with families from the South East and Midlands who were relieved to have a sea breeze and 28C heat, instead of the 38 C experienced back at their homes.

Lifeguards said the packed beach was unusually busy for a Monday and “about 80 per cent of weekend levels”.

Hass, 45, a taxi driver from St Albans, Hertfordshire, had driven down at 6am with his wife and two children, aged 10 and 13, after receiving an email from their school saying “if you are worried about the heat then you can keep your children at home”.

“I thought this is an opportunity to head to the beach,” Hass said, as he sat soaking up the rays on his beach chair, yards from the waves lapping the shore.

“We’re heading back tonight but we may come again tomorrow. Being near the beach makes such a difference to the temperature.”

That was a typical view amongst the parents and children who spoke to The Times, with most schools breaking up for Summer this week.

Loretta, 42, had driven for four hours from Dudley, West Midlands, with her three sons, aged 13, 10 and 6, to get to the beach. They left behind temperatures reaching 37 C.

“We saw the weather forecast and booked hotels yesterday,” she said. “We are going back Wednesday.

Their father is a self-employed salesman and works all the time so we thought we would have a holiday.” 7 hours ago 5.00pm

Planes grounded as runways start to melt

Luton Airport has suspended all flights after the runway was found to have started melting in the extreme heat.

The airport said: “Following today’s high temperatures, a surface defect was identified on the runway.

“Engineers were called immediately to site and repair works are currently in progress to resume operations as soon as possible.

We would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused.”

Luton has only one runway and the last flight from the airport departed at 3:07pm. Inbound flights are being diverted, The Times has been told.

The RAF has also halted flights from Brize Norton, because the “runway has melted”.

Experts said the surface of roads often have higher surface temperatures than the air temperature.

On Tuesday some roads could reach as high as 60C with temporary speed restrictions required. 8 hours ago

4.25pm

Coping in a heatwave… the royal way

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall had different tactics for keeping cool

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall had different tactics for keeping cool ARTHUR EDWARDS/GETTY IMAGES

If one is the Duchess of Cornwall, one deals with a heatwave by adopting the traditional approach, with a parasol and an ice cream (Valentine Low writes).

If, on the other hand, one is the Prince of Wales, there is only one thing for it when faced with soaring temperatures: to keep one’s suit jacket on at all costs.

Charles and Camilla demonstrated their different philosophies for dealing with hot weather in a visit to Cornwall where they met a couple who had been rescued from the sea only 24 hours earlier.

Camilla held a parasol to keep off the sun as she met Tim and Gill Rothwell, who were rescued by the Newlyn lifeboat

Camilla held a parasol to keep off the sun as she met Tim and Gill Rothwell, who were rescued by the Newlyn lifeboat GETTY IMAGES

Arriving at the harbour in Mousehole — where temperatures had already reached 28C — the duchess, who turned 75 on Sunday, said: “This is very cool here, it’s stifling in London.

I’m using my parasol, I think I’m going to take off like Mary Poppins.”

Their ice cream — just the one between the two of them — was provided by Webb’s Dairy Ice Cream.

The owner, Charlotte Webb, 30, said: “I showed them our selection and they wanted vanilla with Cornish buttercream in one pot with two spoons.”

Two miles away in Newlyn, local fishermen showed off their catch of the day, including a fresh turbot worth GBP125, plaice, seabass and monkfish.

Prince Charles met fishermen at Newlyn Harbour and later visited the local fish restaurant Argoe

Prince Charles met fishermen at Newlyn Harbour and later visited the local fish restaurant Argoe GETTY IMAGES

Charles and Camilla also met Tim and Gill Rothwell, who were waiting for their boat to be fixed after having to be rescued at sea on Sunday.

Mr Rothwell, 74, said: “I think someone must have told him [Charles] we had been rescued. But I explained that the engine just stopped.

We were two miles off Lizard peninsula. We alerted the RNLI and they sent a boat out to tow us to safety. We would have run ashore on rocks within half an hour if they hadn’t come out.

It was quite windy, it was 30 knots.” 8 hours ago 4.10pm

RAF runway shut

The runway was closed at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire mid-morning today “as they’ve decided it was a higher risk than necessary”, according to an RAF source.

One air-to-air refuelling tanker that is normally based at the airbase was moved to a cooler location in the north before the runway was closed.

The Voyager is used to support Typhoon aircraft when they launch to escort Russian aircraft flying close to UK skies. Only non-essential aircraft were said to be affected by the closure.

The source said there had been no effect to any operations, adding that the runway was likely to remain closed tomorrow. 8 hours ago

3.50pm

Sprinklers, iced tea and frozen fish — how zoo animals are keeping cool

Whipsnade Zoo keepers try to keep animals cool during heatwave

Zoos across the UK have taken extra precautions to prevent their animals overheating, including offering icy treats and shutting their doors to visitors (Peter Chappell writes).

At Bristol Zoo squirrel monkeys, kea parrots and red pandas were given ice lollies filled with vegetables, leaves or mealworms, while the seals tucked into frozen fish in ice blocks as they frolicked in their pool. Animals at ZSL London Zoo were also given ice pops made from sugar-free iced tea, filled with nuts and seeds.

Colchester Zoo in Essex offered its residents frozen bottles of water and sprinklers. A spokesman said: “Primates such as the gorillas and squirrel monkeys love an ice lolly, just like us.

When the temperatures rise zookeepers make sure that every animal has plenty of water and cooling treats.

A number of zoos have closed to allow keepers to focus on keeping animals safe during the heatwave

A number of zoos have closed to allow keepers to focus on keeping animals safe during the heatwave ZSL LONDON ZOO/PA

“They can choose to spend their time in their cool indoor dens, or under the cool shade of the trees in their outdoor paddock, or they can choose to sunbathe if they prefer.”

Chester Zoo said it would be closed on Monday and Tuesday, tweeting: “Due to the extreme heat forecast … we will be closed for the safety of our staff, visitors, animals and plants.” Yorkshire Wildlife Park near Doncaster also said it will be closed on Monday and Tuesday to allow rangers to “concentrate fully on caring for our animals”.

Baby Bolivian squirrel monkeys at Chessington World of Adventures investigate some iced vegetables

Baby Bolivian squirrel monkeys at Chessington World of Adventures investigate some iced vegetables BEEM

9 hours ago

3.20pm

Europe battles wildfires

Hundreds of firefighters are tackling ferocious wildfires in France, Spain and Portugal as the risk of more blazes remains high across southern Europe. The high temperatures seen in Britain are also occurring in China and Japan. Here’s a round-up of some of the countries affected:

France

France has scrambled water-bombing planes to douse flames spreading through tinder-dry forests.

Forecasters have warned of possible record temperatures as swirling hot winds complicated firefighting efforts in the country’s southwest.

About 20,000 people have been forced out of their homes in the Gironde region since the wildfires began on July 12.

Spain and Portugal

In Spain two people were killed in fires that the country’s prime minister linked to global warming, saying: “Climate change kills.”

Teresa Ribera, Spain’s minister for ecological transition, described her country as “literally under fire” as she attended talks on climate change in Berlin and warned of “terrifying prospects still for the days to come” — after more than ten days of temperatures over 40C (104F), cooling only moderately at night.

A train travelling through Spain was surrounded by wildfires

In Portugal much cooler weather on Monday helped fire crews to make progress against blazes. More than 600 firefighters attended four major fires in northern Portugal.

Greece

A British tourist was found dead on a sunbed in Crete after his lifeless body was left undiscovered for hours.

The 54-year-old man was found at roughly 8pm on Saturday in the popular resort town of Stalida on the northern coast of the Greek island.

Beachgoers became concerned and raised the alarm after realising the man had remained motionless on his sunbed for several hours.

Two British tourists, aged 53 and 26, died in Majorca and northern Spain while swimming in separate incidents.

China and Japan

In China an extended heatwave will run for at least 40 more days, with highs of more than 40C until late August, forecasters are predicting.

In Japan, as the country experiences its worst heatwave since 1875, people are turning to high-tech solutions to keep cool.

A puffer jacket with an inbuilt fan system, designed by the tool-maker Makita, has proved particularly popular with those working outside.

9 hours ago

3.00pm

Third teenager dies swimming

A third teenage boy has died while getting into difficulties in water (David Brown writes).

Police were called when the 16-year-old boy disappeared in Bray Lake, near Maidenhead, Berkshire, at 11.45am today. His body was found at 1.30pm.

Superintendent Michael Greenwood of Thames Valley Police said: “This is an absolute tragedy in which a young boy has died after getting into difficulty in the water of Bray Lake.”

Bray Lake describes itself as Berkshire’s premier water sports centre with activities including sailing, paddle boarding and open water swimming.

10 hours ago

2.35pm

Schools close due to extreme heat

Fifty-three schools in Buckinghamshire have closed and sent pupils home to learn online due to the extreme heat (Emma Yeomans writes).

Other students in the county will be sent home from school early to avoid the hottest part of the day.

Eight schools in Nottinghamshire will close and an academy trust has said that it will close four schools in Worcestershire today and possibly tomorrow.

The Mercian Educational Trust told parents: “Our school sites and environments are not designed to comfortably accommodate pupils and staff at the anticipated temperatures for prolonged periods.”

North Wootton Academy and South Wootton Junior and Infant School in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, have announced they will have to close due to low water supply in the schools.

Many pupils have been told that they can wear their PE kits to school, while some have cancelled sports days or other outdoor events.

Stockport Academy, one of the schools to have cancelled a sports day, told parents and pupils: “Students can wear PE kits or uniform without blazers and ties. We are focused on keeping our students safe and comfortable throughout this period of extreme heat.”

UK temperatures soar

10 hours ago

2.15pm

Heat clears the roads

Road congestion dropped by as much as 10 per cent in London, Birmingham, Bristol and Glasgow this morning, data has revealed (Ben Clatworthy writes).

Week-on-week analysis by TomTom, the satellite navigation company, showed that traffic levels were significantly down as Britons worked from home and cancelled appointments.

The AA has warned that cars could feel like “mobile microwaves” and urged motorists to prepare for hot journeys by packing snacks, medication and water, and ensuring pets and children are not left in passenger seats.

Crowds have flock to the beaches of Bournemouth in Dorset

Crowds have flock to the beaches of Bournemouth in Dorset CORIN MESSER/BNPS

The breakdown company also advised motorists to set off for work early, when temperatures are cooler, to reduce the chances of their engine overheating — the most common cause of breakdowns in hot weather.

Drivers should also check their vehicle’s cooling system with a mechanic, particularly owners of older cars, experts said.

11 hours ago

1.20pm

Rush to buy fans

Retailers are reporting “fandamonium” in stores as Brits desperate to cool down buy electric fans in record numbers (Andrew Ellson writes).

Currys had its biggest week of fan sales this year, with a 300 per cent increase in the last three days compared to the week before.

Sainsbury’s said its week on week sales of fans had jumped nearly 2,000 per cent, and the online marketplace OnBuy said that sales were up 1,630 per cent.

Putting the fountains to good use in Trafalgar Square, London

Putting the fountains to good use in Trafalgar Square, London MARTYN WHEATLEY/I-IMAGES

Sainsbury’s also reported a 2,400 per cent increase in sales of portable air conditioning units and an 800 per cent jump in the sales of paddling pools.

Lara Brittain, appliances expert at Currys, said: “The nation is going to lengthy measures to keep cool from the rising temperatures, splashing out on all sorts of products in the last few weeks. Currys has seen a 300 per cent increase in the sale of fans in the last three days compared to the previous week.

Last week we recorded selling over 17,000 fans, which is a record for this year.”

11 hours ago

1.00pm

Postal services face disruption

Royal Mail has advised staff, particularly those delivering on foot, that they should return to the office rather than risk falling ill from the heat (Mario Ledwith writes).

Royal Mail said that although efforts were being taken to ensure a steady service, some of the hottest areas could see disruption to regular services.

The warning came as unions called for employers to ensure that they undertake new risk assessments for working in the extreme conditions.

Unison, the UK’s largest trade union, said that bosses should reduce working periods, put in place extra breaks and provide water breaks for those worst affected. The union said that employers need to provide a “suitable and sufficient” assessment of risks that should then be communicated to staff, pointing out the legal duty to protect employees.

It said that strenuous work should be avoided where possible and recommended the use of fans and even operating “buddy systems” for those wearing warm PPE to ensure staff can check if their colleagues suffer heat stress.

The TUC has called for a legal maximum temperature of 30C for indoor work to be introduced, alongside a 27C limit for strenuous work.

Gritters prepare to coat the roads to stop them melting in Warwickshire

Gritters prepare to coat the roads to stop them melting in Warwickshire SWNS

12 hours ago

12.40pm

At least four die swimming

A 13-year-old boy is among at least four people who died while swimming over the weekend as emergency services made urgent appeals for people to stay out of dangerous waterways and reservoirs.

The boy was reported missing when he disappeared while swimming in the River Tyne at Ovingham, Northumberland, yesterday afternoon. A body was found in the river this morning

In Greater Manchester a 16-year-old boy died after he was seen struggling in the water at Salford Quays at around 6.15pm on Saturday. A body was later recovered by specialist divers.

Detective Inspector Joanne Johnston, of Greater Manchester Police, said: “This is such a sad reminder of the dangers of entering open water, whatever the weather.”

Police in Leeds urged people to stay away from dangerous bodies of water after a death at Ardsley Reservoir.

Officers were called to a report that a man had got into difficulty in the water at 5.30pm on Saturday and the body of the 50-year-old was found on Sunday.

Police said a 37-year-old man was pulled from the sea near Brighton pier, East Sussex, on Saturday evening. He died in hospital. An eyewitness told The Argus: “I saw him being dragged out of the water and CPR being administered.

The ambulance staff and police were there within two or three minutes.”

Two swimmers were rescued off the coast at Littlehampton, West Sussex, on Friday afternoon and lifeboat crew in West Kirby, Merseyside, assisted two off-duty nurses who spotted a swimmer suffering cold water shock yesterday afternoon.

12 hours ago

12.15pm

Crowds on trains to coast despite warnings

Rail operators have reported high numbers of passengers heading to the coast despite warnings not to travel (Ben Clatworthy writes).

Govia Thameslink, which operates services to Brighton, said its services are “now very busy between London and the South Coast.”

The operator urged passengers to only travel if your journey is essential and is warning that return journeys may be severely disrupted later.

The heat was visible on the line to London from Ely in Cambridgeshire

The heat was visible on the line to London from Ely in Cambridgeshire GEOFF ROBINSON

Network Rail has said that the East Coast Mainline will be closed from London to York and Leeds on Tuesday. The route passes through areas that are predicted to endure some of the highest temperatures and the line has some infrastructure characteristics — including wired overhead power cable gantries rather than steel beams — that make it slightly more fragile in extreme heat compared to other mainlines.

Jake Kelly, a spokesman at Network Rail, said: “We hope and expect to run a full service on Wednesday and beyond, but that will depend on the damage that the weather does to the infrastructure over the next couple of days.

We have lots of plans in place to make sure that we can run.”

Transport for London has advised people to “only travel if essential”.

Fish feel the heat

Even fish and worms are feeling the strain during the heatwave.

Anglers are being asked look out for fish in distress as the heat and sun trigger algal blooms which can reduce dissolved oxygen levels in waters (David Brown writes).

In the past week Environment Agency officers have deployed aerators after reports of 1,000 dead fish at a council-owned fishery in Basildon, Essex. Pumps were also used to protect thousands of fish at an angling club in Worcester after dissolved oxygen levels fell to around 15 per cent.

Anglers are being asked to minimise the use of bait; to take care when playing, landing and releasing large or sensitive fish, such as pike, barbel, trout and salmon; and to avoid taking photos of fish out of water to prevent further oxygen loss.

They are also being asked not to fish for larger fish or sensitive species if the water temperature exceeds 19C by mid-morning.

Heidi Stone, fisheries manager at the Environment Agency, said: “Environment Agency teams are working hard to mitigate the impacts of recent high temperatures and are monitoring the situation closely when it comes to protecting fish at risk.”

The heatwave is being blamed for the Falmouth Worm Charming Championships ending with just one capture.

Contestants at the Dracaena Centre in Cornwall used the usual mix of tricks to mimic rain to tempt worms to the surface including watering, dancing, drumming and even playing the didgeridoo.

Each team was given a two-metre square plot of grass to charm worms out of the ground without digging or using any mechanical tools. The hard, dry soil caused by high temperatures meant only a solitary worm emerged.

The world record was set in June 2009 by Sophie Smith, 10, who raised 567 worms during Britain’s World Worm Charming Championship.

999 warning

Ambulance trusts are expecting 999 calls to surge by about 50 per cent as they respond to cases of heat exhaustion and heatstroke (Eleanor Hayward writes).

Emergency additional support has been put in place at NHS trusts and call handlers have asked to work extra hours.

Brian Jordan, the director of 999 operations at the London Ambulance Service, said: “A busy day for us is around 5,500 999 calls.

We’ve seen in recent days over 7,000, and we’re anticipating that number to potentially go up to 8,000 calls.

“Only call 999 if it’s a genuine emergency. If it’s urgent but not a genuine emergency, we would advise them to contact NHS 111 online for support.”

Commuters brave the heat on London Bridge

Commuters brave the heat on London Bridge JEREMY SELWYN

In recent days entire ambulance fleets have been trapped outside A&E units in queues because hospitals have run out of beds.

NHS England has ordered hospitals to ensure that ambulances are not held for longer than 30 minutes during the heatwave.

Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, has urged people to be aware of signs of potentially deadly heatstroke and heat exhaustion.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include a fast pulse, nausea and excessive sweating. It is not usually serious as long as people cool down within 30 minutes, but it is a medical emergency if it turns into heatstroke, when people can stop sweating altogether and may lose consciousness.

Claudia Di Napoli, a heatwave researcher at the University of Reading, said: “The dangers of heat to human health are multiple: dehydration, overheating, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. These must not be underestimated as their consequences can be fatal.

“Some people are more vulnerable to the dangers of heat than others.

These include infants, the elderly, the homeless, outdoor workers and those with pre-existing medical conditions.”

Johnson stays away from emergency meeting

Criticism of Boris Johnson for missing a Cobra meeting about today’s extreme heat is “completely unfair”, a cabinet minister has argued (Chris Smyth writes).

Kit Malthouse, the Cabinet Office minister, insisted it was his job to chair such emergency meetings and denied that the prime minister had skipped Cobra because he was leaving the job.

Johnson held a barbecue for supporters at Chequers yesterday but Malthouse said he was being kept informed of preparations for 40C heat and it was a “very unfair criticism” to say the prime minister should have attended in person.

“It’s literally my job to chair Cobra. The Civil Contingencies Secretariat sits in my department,” he told LBC, arguing that Johnson “appoints secretaries of state to do this kind of work and that’s what I’ve been doing”.

Boris Johnson visited Farnborough International Airshow today

Boris Johnson visited Farnborough International Airshow today FRANK AUGSTEIN/REUTERS

Malthouse acknowledged “significant disruption” on the transport network today and drew comparisons with a heatwave in France in 2003 during which “thousands of elderly people did die”.

He said Britain should “learn from that, we are not used to this kind of heat and we just need to make sure that we are sensible and moderate and take care during the next 48 hours”.

People should “do the neighbourly thing” and check on elderly people living near by, Malthouse said.

He defended the government’s response, saying that the Cobra meetings “make sure we are prepared and we are then able to communicate a sensible public safety message”.

Johnson was visiting the Farnborough international airshow today where he was expected to compare his ejection as Tory leader to doing a “loop the loop” in a fighter jet. “After three happy years in the cockpit, performing some pretty difficult if not astonishing feats … I am about to hand the controls over seamlessly to someone else,” he will tell aviation industry leaders.

Boris Johnson flies Typhoon fighter jet

Demand for water climbs alongside temperatures

Demand for water is at a “near record level” and restrictions could be implemented if rainfall levels are low over the next few months, Thames Water has said (Kieran Gair writes).

Andrew Tucker, water demand reduction manager at the company, said the UK was getting through its supply “faster than we would like” but that the system was coping.

He told Today on BBC Radio 4: “We’re doing pretty well. We know exactly how much water we’ve got in the system, and that’s both in our rivers, the aquifers underground or groundwater aquifers, but also how much we have in our reservoirs.

“We balance that with how much demand we’re seeing from homes and businesses but at the moment that demand is at near record level, as we were expecting.”

The water level at Weir Wood reservoir in West Sussex seems to be diminishing but restrictions on usage are not expected yet

The water level at Weir Wood reservoir in West Sussex seems to be diminishing but restrictions on usage are not expected yet

DANIEL LEAL/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

He added that restrictions could be brought in for Thames Water’s 15 million customers across London and the Thames Valley if there is a sustained dry period over the next few months.

“We’re not expecting to need to introduce restrictions on water at the moment. But we know how much water we’ve got, and with people using more at the moment, we are getting through it faster than we would like,” he said.

Water companies urge their customers to be considerate with how much water they use, including limiting the use of hosepipes, ensuring every space in the dishwasher is filled and taking shorter showers.

Passengers warned against unnecessary travel

Passengers are being told not to travel as Britain gears up to boil in 40C temperatures (Ben Clatworthy writes).

Network Rail said that people should travel only if “absolutely necessary” as rails are likely to buckle and overhead power lines break in the extreme heat. Trains will limit their speeds, so journeys are expected to take “significantly longer”.

Gary Walsh, Network Rail’s route director for the East Midlands, said: “The railway in this country is simply not engineered to run normally in such extreme temperatures.

A commuter takes advantage of a rare opportunity to cool down on the Tube

A commuter takes advantage of a rare opportunity to cool down on the Tube

DINENDRA HARIA/LNP

“We’ve got extra teams out around the route, ready to respond to any incidents, but with temperatures set to break all records, we need to also reduce the speed at which trains can run. This reduces the risk of tracks buckling in the heat and also means that when the overhead line expands it won’t get tangled on passing trains.”

Deaths are expected because of the heat with care homes and hospitals on red alert. The UK Health Security Agency has also issued a heat health warning at level four, which is described as a “national emergency”.

Ministers held an emergency Cobra meeting on Saturday and nationwide events have been cancelled or postponed.

Steve Barclay, the new health secretary, said additional contingency support for ambulance services, such as more call handlers and extra working hours, are being put in place.

Last night Network Rail said it will close the East Coast Main Line between London King’s Cross and York and Leeds between midday and 8pm tomorrow, with only a skeleton service running in the morning.

Conditions on other routes will be closely monitored with further changes to services possible.

Sam MacDougall, operations director at Network Rail, said: “Closing the line to traffic is always a last resort but it is the right thing to do to keep people safe on Tuesday … On Monday we are reducing the speed at which trains can run which will limit the number of trains running and extend journey times significantly, so we’re asking passengers to only travel if absolutely necessary.”

Fears for elderly as heat adds to strain on NHS

Health officials fear that today’s record temperatures will cause thousands of avoidable deaths (Eleanor Hayward writes).

They are particularly worried about elderly adults succumbing to the heat tonight when temperatures are unlikely to drop below 25C, meaning their bodies will get no respite.

The NHS is braced for a surge in 999 calls but there are concerns the ambulance service — already on the brink of collapse — will struggle to cope.

NHS bosses have ordered all ambulances to hand over patients to A&E within 30 minutes of arriving, to prevent people overheating in the back of the vehicles. Patients will be treated in corridors instead of waiting in ambulance queues for a bed.

Hospitals say the heat is “causing havoc” with dilapidated infrastructure, and several NHS trusts have cancelled routine operations and appointments today and tomorrow.

Miriam Deakin, from NHS Providers, told BBC Radio 4: “The heat is really putting pressure on the NHS state, much of which is quite dilapidated.

Some operating theatres are having to be put on pause because they can’t be kept at the temperatures required.

“Medicines management requires things to be kept at precise temperatures. The heat is playing some havoc with IT servers and so on.”

How to stay safe in extreme heat

While Britain’s temperatures are due to be exceptional, there are plenty of places where they would be anything but. The people who live and work in those places — which are far better adapted to cope — can offer advice to get us through the heatwave, until we can return to grumbling about the rain instead (Tom Whipple writes).

A dawn plunge in the Serpentine in Hyde Park, London, with the temperature already in the twenties

A dawn plunge in the Serpentine in Hyde Park, London, with the temperature already in the twenties

BEN CAWTHRA/LNP

Nico Ramirez and his fellow park rangers in Death Valley have a rule. If the temperature rises above 43C they work using a buddy system, just in case someone collapses. If it tops 49C, they take even more extreme measures: they go inside and wait until it’s a bit cooler.

How to be safe outside
When Ramirez first came to work in Death Valley, it was the wind that struck him — literally. “It is so hot, there’s no relief,” he says. ” I never felt anything like it.

It was exciting and humbling.”

The valley, possibly the hottest place on earth, is below sea level. The hot air at the base rises, but the mountains around the sides mean cool air cannot be drawn in. Instead it recirculates like a fan oven.

This means that a breeze brings no comfort. “When I ride a motorcycle it just feels like driving through a hot blow dryer,” he says.

The sun rises over Eastchurch in Kent with record temperatures expected for much of the country

The sun rises over Eastchurch in Kent with record temperatures expected for much of the country JAMES BELL/ALAMY

But even here humans can survive. The first step is common sense and — as anyone who has observed mad dogs and Englishmen abroad — against our national character.

To cope with the heat Ramirez and his fellow rangers acknowledge that the sun might put constraints on their day, and adjust accordingly.

Typically they try to get outdoor work done by 10am, and encourage hikers to do the same. They treat heat a little like climbers treat altitude, taking time to acclimatise if they have come from somewhere cooler. When they are out they drink a lot, but also eat lots of salty snacks.

Staying hydrated means also replacing lost electrolytes.

Read here for advice on:
o What should we do in the hottest part of the day?
o What should I wear?
o How do I keep cool at night?

Schools told to stay open

Schools are being urged not to close during the heatwave (Nicola Woolcock writes).

Some schools have said they are switching to remote learning or closing at lunchtime, but Steve Chalke — whose Oasis chain runs more than 50 academies, mostly in the north of England — warned that the poorest families would suffer. “The decision to shut a school at any time has huge ramifications, economically and socially,” he said.

A pupil takes action against the heat during the school run in Stockton, Co Durham

A pupil takes action against the heat during the school run in Stockton, Co Durham BACKGRID

All Oasis schools would remain open throughout the heatwave, he said, because shutting them “would be unbelievably irresponsible”. He added: “School will be cooler because we can manage it and our parents have to work.

It’s like [Covid] lockdown — it was a class construct — you can’t work remotely if you’re a cleaner or working in a supermarket.”

Dominic Raab, the deputy prime minister, told Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Sky News : “We’re coming to the end of the school term but I think making sure young children get the education they need is really important, particularly after the pandemic, and schools are well placed to do that.”

Read the full article

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